Archive for the ‘Sensitivity’ Category

Service of Marketing Tone Deafness in a Global Economy

Thursday, April 19th, 2018


There are some things that seem so clearly offensive, at least to me, that I can’t understand why manufacturers need diversity, cultural-awareness and sensitivity committees and training to prevent them from producing distasteful products. They do need something: Common sense and a team of educated, aware marketers, design employees and independent contractors.

Photo: Crate & Barrel

Take the H&M hoodie with the words “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” modeled by an African American child. In South African stores customers knocked over manikins and clothing racks where it was sold. You don’t need to be South African to find fault with hat hoodie. The same with Zara’s tee shirt: you don’t need to be Jewish to question the yellow star and its placement on the shirt, reminiscent of what Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. I wrote about a similar embellishment faux pas on a top in a post, “Service of What Were They Thinking?” in April, 2012.

Tiffany Hsu, in her New York Times article, “How to Prevent a Racist Hoodie,” listed these and more items such as shirts in which women were compared to dogs and other tops decorated with words like slut and slave.

With corporations selling to countries worldwide, I can see the necessity of knowledgeable people weeding out images and words that are benign in some places but not in others. But often the bad taste is glaring and obvious.


The major excuse manufacturers give for the blunders is lack of time to approve designs because so many are introduced at once and so quickly these days. One website introduces 4,500 a week wrote Hsu. An industry supply chain expert observed that it’s easy to overlook mistakes when you have two hours, not two months to approve a line. The hoodie and star, slut and slave should have been flagged in two seconds. Zara is using an algorithm to scan designs for offensive motifs. Good luck with that.

Another simple solution: stop introducing so many products that you don’t have time to vet them. H&M isn’t finding the model works that well for them. According to Hsu, it is currently “sitting on $4.3 billion in unsold goods…”


Let’s admit it: We can be too SENSITIVE these days. Some things are bound to slip by regardless of well-meaning measures. One example Hsu shared would have flown right over my head. She wrote: “Heineken pulled a series of commercials for light beer with the tagline ‘sometimes lighter is better,’ after an ad sparked criticism for being racist.” Before I finished reading to the end of the sentence I guessed the injured parties might have been people trying to lose weight. Wrong.

There was an image of a frog on a skirt that reminded some of a “cartoon character called Pepe, which was designated a hate symbol of the alt-right by the Anti-Defamation League,” wrote Hsu. I have seen neither cartoon but why would a Spanish artist who lives in London and is responsible for the frog in question design such a reptile for a skirt with hate and violence in mind? Wouldn’t he look for a more prominent object?

Waiting to pay at Trader Joe’s the other month someone left behind on a table just before checkout a carton of “Arrogant Bastard Ale.” I took a picture [below] because I thought it was such a stupid name for a drink, the result of a bad case of “aren’t we hip?” at the brewery. The marketers no doubt  hoped the carton filled with cold ones would stand out from the well known brands and appeal to would-be cool customers. I’ll take the Coors, Brooklyn Larger, Blue Moon or Rolling Rock.

How would you suggest companies determine the funny and hip from the nasty, offensive and cruel for their product designs and advertising campaigns? Have any offended you? Do you think some consumers can be too thin-skinned?

Service of Being Overly Sensitive

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Tear 1

Support groups provide many benefits starting with comfort in knowing that others are going through what you are. For the same reason I felt enormous relief when I read Elizabeth Bernstein’s article, “Don’t Take This the Wrong Way, You May Be Highly Sensitive.” According to Bernstein, some 20 percent of the population is just like me and House Speaker John Boehner, who also weeps easily. It’s 50-50 men/women. I took the quiz linked to Bernstein’s article and if there were ever any doubts that I’m an HSP—highly sensitive person–the definitive results wipe them away.

John Boehner cryingI was surprised that this personality trait may have a genetic cause as most of my family members were/are steel-strong with upper lips so stiff as to be made of cement. I get teary at schmaltzy commercials, when I hear the National Anthem, see the American flag on holidays waving from the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie, NY, when a beloved animal dies on “All Creatures Great and Small,” and when I say goodbye to someone moving far away. “While they haven’t yet identified all the genes involved,” wrote Bernstein, “research suggests that the serotonin transporter gene—which is involved in the recycling of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that impacts emotional well-being—plays a role.” Sounds serious!

Stiff upper lip 1But there’s good news: “Sometimes called Sensory Processing Sensitivity, high sensitivity isn’t a disorder or a condition but rather an innate, permanent trait.”

And I loved this: “Mr. Hassard admits that sometimes being overly sensitive can cause problems such as ‘when you can’t hide how much arguing with idiots upsets you.’” Bernstein included Michael Hassard in the article because he also cries easily. She described him as “a former engineer for NASA, [who] hikes and camps, takes long motorcycle rides, mows his lawn, fixes leaky faucets, and loves football.”

free idiot testThe rest of the researchers’ “findings” about the trait cover their posteriors because they are extremely fuzzy. Wrote Bernstein, “They also believe that psychological factors—your temperament or personality—have an affect on your level of sensitivity, as does your physiology, specifically how you respond to stress.” Pardon this overused reaction: Duh.

A sidebar listed tips on how to get along with this type of person should one be your parent, child, sibling, cousin, friend or lover: Don’t be critical of an HSP; never say “calm down” or “why are you making such a big deal of this?” and “Recognize that…..feeling emotions of pain and joy more acutely can be a good thing.”

Do you know HSPs? Are you one?

crying at movies

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