Hairy Monsters, Super Freaks?

A department store in New York City on East Houston Street, American Apparel, notorious for turning heads, has done it again!

This controversial retailer is well known for getting its customers talking. This time, adorning the store window mannequins with; guess what? Answer ‘pubic hair!’

A spokesperson for American Apparel is known to have said ‘We created it to invite the passersby to explore the idea of what is ‘sexy’ and consider their comfort with the natural female form.”

Really? What’s the point of this raunchy exercise in publicity apart from titillation do you suggest? (And yes the manikins’ do have nipples!)

Well, the company points out that this outrageous window display is aimed at boosting sales around Valentine’s Day, and it appears it’s already really working! Curious customers and media huddle round the shop window in their droves snapping pictures and creating a stir.

The manikins dressed in revealing shirt dresses, perms and skimpy panties and masses of pubic hair leave nothing to the imagination and impact of the Customer Experience at this touch point.

It’s Not Their First Time

This is not the first time by any stretch that American Apparel has used scandalous imagery and publicity to attract its customers. The retailer has had its fair share of lawsuits along the journey of its rise to success. The company has also a troubled past dealing with Securities Fraud and the supposed sexuality of young models. And even more than this in 2011, An employee died after an industrial accident as a result of being crushed by a circular knitting machine. What a terrible way to go!

American Apparel spokesperson Peter Schey  is known to have said that all these past incidents have only strengthened this company and lead to the improvement of the lives of its roughly 10,000 employees. The company now has employee policies that go above and beyond what the law in the US requires.

“It’s not like mistakes have been made and we’ve ignored them and made things even worse, it is a situation where we’ve tried to learn from those mistakes,” said Schey, “Every mistake is an opportunity to learn how to do things better from the standpoint of the workers.”

Here are JUST SOME OF THE previous adds that totally rocked American Apparel.

Even, if it’s only diversity in the pubic region with the express purpose of causing a little ‘buzz’ are these mannequins a step too far? Or are they demonstrating a realistic view of the female body as a customer would like to see – real people, warts and all?

Just as customers may like to see mannequins depicting people of different race, people with disabilities, people of different sizes, heights…

Is simply putting sex into advertising provocative and erotic and just specifically designed to arouse an interest in a brand, product or service?

Sex Can Also Turn Off Customers

Do these mannequins make you want to buy American Apparel clothes?

Surely there is a fine line drawn here and just as in the media all too often brands can be seen as stepping way over the line.

There is always a difference between what you want your customers to see and what they actually prefer.

People may find American Apparel’s clothing erotic as any other, but if the product isn’t great, they won’t hold onto the customers for long whatever image they portray.

Company leaders really need to take  a solid look at the way they promote their products or services and this often requires getting naked in front of the mirror, but surely only figuratively?

The use of sex in advertising has important social, managerial, and public policy implications. These implications hinge, of course, on the desired portrayal of women in contemporary society, the conditions under which advertising and marketing managers must consider.

Despite the importance of sexually-oriented advertising and its increased use, little research has been directed towards measuring the impact of such advertisements on consumer awareness, attitudes, or behaviours

As a result of these shortcomings, very little is known about sex in advertising and how it may be expected to interact with other variables to arouse, motivate, offend, or otherwise affect target and non-target consumer populations.

American Apparel has a history of using such hair in its imagery, potentially for shock value. Just last Autumn, the store sold a graphic T-Shirt containing an image of a menstruating vagina with pubic hair, which caused an online stir. Before that, they released an Ad featuring a model in sheer underwear with once again visible pubic hair!

The Bottom Line’

Is American Apparel delivering the wrong kind of customer attention, and does this line of thought ultimately lead to a bigger and better brand?

People hate being misled, when advertisements are full of untruth and as we know this is part and parcel of the overall Customer Experience. If you use taboo subjects in advertising, but the rest of your product and service is not risqué, you’re running into trouble.

Surely sex, used sparingly and judicially, is a strong selling tool. But abuse it, and you will ultimately lose out?

But now consumers are left to decide for themselves whether or not the advertising message and product match – or if that even matters. Your views?

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