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Tea Pot Resembling Hitler Brews Trouble for JCPenney

05/29/2013

hitler-kettle_2574818bJust when the gang at JCPenney thought things couldn’t get any worse…well, something like this has to come along.

Trouble is brewing for the retailer after customers noted that one of its tea kettles bears a striking resemblance to Adolf Hitler.

Bemused motorists took photographs of the huge JCPenney billboard advertising the kettle as they drove past it on the 405 Interstate highway near Culver City in California, one of America’s busiest stretches of roads.

“That Hitler looks like a kettle,” commented one user of Reddit, one of the several websites where the image was posted over the weekend. “He even has his right arm extended,” wrote another, while a third added: “I’m a little Nazi, short and stout”.

Of course JCPenney is not the only brand to head into ‘Blunderville’. While the teapot is not on the scale of New Coke or logo gaffes like Gap’s, a number of major marketing blunders have come from simple errors in translation. While it’s amazing to consider that those running ad campaigns could actually overlook something as basic as, you know, the meaning of the words they print in their ads.

But it happens all the time. The Coors “Turn it loose” slogan translated into a Spanish idiom for diarrhea. Perdue Chicken’s slogan “It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” was translated in Spanish to “It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate,” and Mexican consumers read the translated “Got Milk?” as “Are you lactating?”

But none could hit a brand when it is as vulnerable as JCPenney. The company’s financial situation is precarious and deteriorating. There is no evidence that the company can turn its sales around. The company faces these headwinds in the face of potential macroeconomic weakness.

These are not insurmountable hurdles, but the scenarios in which the company can overcome them are limited and remote – and certainly not made any easier by hawking Hitler teapots.

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