Did American Apparel Spin Gay-Bashing Incident Into PR Opportunity?

Last month Lauren Meyer, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, was attacked and viciously punched in the face by two men for wearing an American Apparel “Legalize Gay” t-shirt.  Naturally, the incident sparked outrage, and American Apparel quickly stepped in and sent 500 of the t-shirts to the UWW campus.  The clothier also took out a full page ad in the student newspaper (pictured above), which declared itself an ally to the GLBT community.

As a corporate marketer, I’m typically pro-business (especially for businesses that support GLBT rights), but seeing a company turning a gay-bashing incident into a PR opportunity leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  An excerpt from a recent post on Queerty sums up my feelings perfectly:

“First, let’s get this out of the way: Any company that comes to the defense of our community deserves commendation. For every outfit like American Apparel that lauds The Gays with attention and good vibes, in good and bad times, there are thousands that ignore us, even when attacks against us happen in our own communities.

But is anyone else a little skeezed out by a company that’s using a violent gay bashing as a means to market itself? The t-shirts themselves don’t carry any American Apparel branding, but I’d bet most young gays who see the shirts known where they’re from. Moreover, AA is touting its activism by buying ads to promote itself — which could be seen as a healthy showing of support, or if you’re a cynic, a gross misappropriation of a disturbing event for a corporate marketing opportunity.”

In AA’s defense, the company wrote an email to a Gawker blogger who wrote on the subject to point out that the chain gave the t-shirts away free of charge and made no money for the donation.  Furthermore, AA has no stores within an hour’s drive of Whitewater to take advantage of the publicity and has no plans to open one anytime soon.

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One response to “Did American Apparel Spin Gay-Bashing Incident Into PR Opportunity?

  1. You have Kobe Bryant shouting out the word Faggot…then again with the jets guy and David Tyree speaking out against Gay Marriage…and of course you have Tracey Morgan being downright hateful against gays and there are no ramifications. Even the sight of Weiner’s Weiner has brought down a Congressman. Are people that afraid of Gays in this day and age? Well Marc Freden, too, has been given pause with the issue. As a gay man, even he feels the need to apologize for the blatant use of the word “Faggot” in his new book “REALLY!?!” Now Freden using the “F” word should get a tacit pass…much like black people using the “N” word to describe themselves. His harmless use of the word…(And you must read the book to understand) has lead him to a video mea culpa on YouTube “Marc Freden Must Apologize to the Gay Community”. Furthermore, Freden has pledged that if Kobe Bryant can be fined $50,000 then he too should pay a price. A percentage of every book sold as a result of his apology will go to the Trevor Project – a gay hotline for distressed teens looking for a voice of calm and understanding. It is the least he can do. Who will join Freden in this cause?

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