JC Penney has been trying to catch a break ever since it voted out former CEO Ron Johnson in April. The retailer has since attempted to lure back customers through new advertising initiatives like this one from several weeks ago that begged disgruntled customers to come back.
Unfortunately, the retailer encountered another stumble on its road to recovery when a Redditor recently discovered one of JC Penney's billboards in Culver City, California, featuring a tea kettle with a lid, asymmetrical handle, and saluting spout that made it look strangely like Adolf Hitler.
When the image went viral, JC Penney tried to contain the damage by frantically tweeting the same response at people drawing attention to the tea kettle.
JCPenney feverishly tweeting at people that, no, its teapot does not look like Hitler, it looks like a snowman twitter.com/jcpenney/with_…— Zach Seward (@zseward) May 28, 2013
@miafarrow Certainly unintended. If we designed it to look like something, we would have gone with a snowman or something fun :)— jcpenney (@jcpenney) May 28, 2013
@gawker Definitely unintended. If we had designed the teapot to look like something, we would have gone with a puppy tea kettle :)— jcpenney (@jcpenney) May 28, 2013
Regardless of whether you chalk the debacle up as a PR win or loss, the kettle has certainly been a success online. We'll let this tweet speak for itself:
UPDATE: The original billboard featured on Reddit that was advertising the controversial tea kettle has reportedly been stripped bare. The kettle has also been removed from the JC Penney website, but that hasn't stopped people from getting it: one was sold on eBay for $199.99, up from its original price of $40.
In an email exchange with Mother Jones, the mayor of Culver City, Jeff Cooper, said he was disappointed JC Penney didn't notice the uncanny resemblance earlier. "I am disappointed JCPenney actually put the billboard up in the first place and more outraged that they actually attempted to defend it," he wrote. "As a Jew, I am offended, [and] as an elected official, I am mad that the city I represent is linked to this."
[Jessica Hullinger contributed to this post]