During the Memorial Day weekend, the public’s eye was drawn to a tea kettle on a JCPenney billboard in Culver City, California. The kettle became an instant online celebrity when a Reddit user pointed out the kettle’s odd resemblance to the infamous Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler.
Since then, JCPenney has made it very clear that the design was not intended to resemble Hitler and removed the billboard by the following Tuesday. As JCPenney has been unstable since the recent hiring and firing of CEO Ron Johnson, the kettle’s controversy was addressed with caution.
The kettle, known in retail as the Michael Graves Design Bells and Whistles Stainless Steel Tea Kettle, was originally set at a price of $40 but is no longer available on the JCPenney website. It is unknown whether it was taken down by the company or whether it sold out. However, the kettle is found to be in high demand as it currently being sold on Ebay for a price as high as $249.
According to Forbes contributor Jonathan Baskin, the fervor caused by the kettle alludes to a business opportunity and a marketing plan that JCPenney and other companies could utilize. Baskin suggests that companies try a method of advertising that isn’t just a flashy ad. As the kettle demonstrated, turning a product into mainstream news is one way companies can promote their business.
As risky as this venture may be, it undeniably creates conversation among the consumers, sparking interest and increasing saliency of the brand or product in the consumers’ minds. The rise in value of the kettle designed by Michael Graves from its sticker price of $40 to $249 on Ebay is not due to the kettle’s similarities to Adolf Hitler. Instead, the increase in financial worth and demand can be attributed to the publicity caused by the dialogue among Internet users.
Photo Credit: hindt3D
It may benefit companies to recognize social media, not only as a tool to reach more consumers, but as a gateway for a provocative conversation regarding their business–though next time it may be in the company’s best interest to not bring Hitler into it.