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With Controversy Comes Sales (Sometimes)
By: Aaron Whitaker
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Sometimes it’s all about the name of a product or brand. If the name brings controversy and criticism and outcry, then it will ultimately bring sales. But can a name go too far? The answer is yes. The name of a brand or product can go too far.
There was a recent story out of India about a clothing store having to change its name because of public outcry. The name of the store was Hitler and, according to the owner, the store was named after the nickname of his business partner’s Grandfather and he was unaware of the other Hitler. Personally, I think he knew what he was doing and was hoping to create sales out of the controversy. There have been many hated leaders throughout history, but I think Hitler tops them all and probably wouldn’t result in huge sales. I could see some rebellious kids wearing t-shirts with Lenin or Stalin or Genghis Khan on them, but not Hitler. Divisive and unfavorable people used to sell products, but there have also been plenty of brands and companies that have chosen controversial words as the name of their brand or product.
One brand that I remember from my teenage days is French Connection t-shirts. The owner started the company in England and made plenty of money selling clothing with the name French Connection. But when sales started to drop, he changed the name to French Connection United Kingdom or ‘FCUK’ for short. What rebellious teenager wouldn’t love to proudly wear a t-shirt with "FCUK" written in bold letters for parents, teachers, and adults to see? The t-shirts sold like hotcakes amidst the uproar from adults in the nineties but ultimately fizzled out. Did adults become acclimated to ‘FCUK,’ making it not-so-cool for teens to wear? There are still plenty of other curse words to name your product after.
The other route to take as far as controversial names go is using sexual language to sell your products. Two examples off the top of my head are the Juicy Couture clothing line of recent years and the Big Johnson t-shirts of the eighties. It seemed like every elementary school kid had at least one Big Johnson t-shirt. Thankfully, my parents, not wanting to be embarrassed and shamed, chose not to let me wear any Big Johnson t-shirts. Now that I’m a parent, I would choose the same route as they did. Today, I would compare the Juicy Couture shorts with ‘Juicy’ written across the backside of the shorts that are worn by the teen and pre-teen girls as comparable to the Big Johnson t-shirts of yesteryear. Perhaps both of these brands were intended for adults to wear them, but they become popular with teens because of their obvious sexual innuendo and the disapproval of parents and teachers.
If you want to increase awareness and sales for your brand, start with a controversial name that will be hated by many but loved by many more. But don’t go with a name like ‘Hitler,’ which is hated and despised by literally everyone.

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About the Author
Aaron Whitaker is a copywriter, blogger, and social media aficionado who likes watching the TV commercials more than the actual shows. He prefers reading the magazine ads over the articles. And you can learn more about him online right here.
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