Don’t Eat That Shirt

IMG_0004Keeping growing kids clothed can be a full-time job. I just love getting hand-me-downs for our kids. We are lucky to have good friends whose two boys, ages seven and nine, keep my four-year-old clothed in cool threads for much of the year. But what you can’t find at consignment shops or other second-hand stores, you just have to break down and buy.

My son, having gone through a recent growth spurt, seems to have no pants that actually come down to his ankles. Fleece capri pants on a four-year-old boy? Not a good look. So, on our way home from an appointment yesterday, we noticed that a local Gap store was having a major pre-spring sale. Since saving money comes in second only to saving the planet when it comes to our purchases, we decided to see what we could find.

Well not long after we set foot inside the store, my son found some t-shirts with superhero themes that he just…had…to have. What kid his age wouldn’t go for a batman t-shirt with built-in cape? I mean, come on. I almost wanted one for myself. [Future DIY project: make t-shirt that reads “BatMom”.]

So I caved and bought it. And the Flash t-shirt, too. Didn’t I originally come here for pants?

After we got back home I unloaded the bag and proceeded to remove the tags. Only then did I see the label on the inside of the t-shirts. On the left side is a deconstructed American flag with the words “Junk Food”; on the right the logo for Baby Gap. Huh? What do kid’s t-shirts and junk food have in common you might ask?

According to this recent article in the NYTimes, junk food makers have figured out the secret formulas (i.e., the right combinations of fat, salt, sugar) that make their products irresistible to consumers. Wonder why you can never eat just one of any kind of snack food? It’s because the guys in the white lab coats have figured out how to give you a steady fix of everything your body craves (none of which is good for it) in one little bite so you just keep on snacking. If you’re the one selling this stuff, it’s great for your bottom line. If you’re the one eating this stuff, well, it’s not so great for your bottom.

One in three American adults is considered overweight, with almost a quarter clinically defined as obese. Rates of obesity among children have tripled since 1980. This, clearly, is nothing to joke about. It boggles the mind how Gap, Inc. could have thought that aligning its clothing products with junk food would be a good idea. Oh to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting. Maybe they thought that we would become subliminally addicted to their clothing due to its association with junk food?

As a parent and a consumer, I wanted to understand the rationale behind such a poorly thought-out marketing decision. I mean, it must cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least, to print those labels and put them in those t-shirts. Can it be that no one along the way voiced a concern that the name was in poor taste?

My curiosity got the better of me, so I emailed Gap, Inc. Marketing Manager Nicole O’Sullivan to ask her. As I await her reply, I thought it might be fun to start a petition calling Gap out on its boneheadedness. Please take a moment to sign the petition and share via your social networks.

Here’s one readymade tweet you can use:

Hey, @Gap, promoting junk food to kids in the name of selling t-shirts is a #MarketingFail.

Thanks for sharing!


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