Exercise 1: Urban Outfitters

I chose to look at the online presence for the clothing store Urban Outfitters, because I was aware they had recently received some criticism for their clothing and certain practices. I started by searching for the company in the Google. I found several negative articles and blog posts including “Urban Outfitters Under Fire over ‘Holocaust T-Shirt’,” “How Urban Outfitters Peddles Ironic Conservatism, Hipster Racism and Other Terrible Values,” “18 Reasons Why Urban Outfitters Is The Worst,” and “9 Urban Outfitters controversies.” The feminist entertainment blog Jezebel.com seems to be one of the leaders in Urban Outfitters criticism, with thousands of results returning from it.

A brief scan of those negative posts and others show’s that Urban Outfitters does occasionally respond to the criticisms, however they do so only sporadically. These responses tend to be in official statements released by the PR department in response to a request from a news outlet. In the instances that it was a clothing item that is found to be the center of the criticism, Urban Outfitters has pulled the item from the website or stores, but this isn’t always the case.

I then searched for the company name using Tweet Scan, but it was only returning results from several years ago. Instead, I moved on the Social Mention. The Twitter mentions on there seemed to be primarily positive and consisting of mentions such as “Urban Outfitters still has free shipping. Life is good.” and “When I went to Urban Outfitters today I felt like I was heaven, oh my ffffffff.” Any negative mentions seemed to be focused on the prices of the items for sale.

Finally, I searched Yelp for the Urban Outfitters in several different locations across the country. The locations tended to have a mid-level rating with negative comments consisting of complaints about the price and quality of the items and the customer service. The company has not responded to the complaints on Yelp.

To see how Urban Outfitters interacts with its customer base, I looked at its website, Facebook, and Twitter presence. Its Facebook and Twitter posts were identical. They primarily consisted of sales and item advertisements, but included the occasional social post such as a picture of one of its buyers’ apartment and a playlist to beat the Monday blues. The website included a blog in addition to the items for sale. The blog seems to be the area where the company tries the most to connect with its customers. It includes snapshots into the life of company employees, music, art, jokes, videos, interview and contests. If not for the posts mentioning their products, it would be easy to mistake this for an entertainment blog.

From my observations, I determined that, though often the subject of controversy, Urban Outfitters has a loyal customer base. It therefore seems to feel little incentive to respond to the criticisms, but instead focuses on connecting with its current customers.

One response

  1. meredithfarkas | Reply

    “It therefore seems to feel little incentive to respond to the criticisms, but instead focuses on connecting with its current customers”

    That’s a very apt insight. For some companies it may not pay to draw attention to controversies via social media. If the typical Urban Outfitters buyer is fairly apolitical (which would not surprise me given the age range they cater to) and cares more about prices and quality than a company’s practices, it may do more harm than good to use social media to respond.

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