24Jan

Photo by: Sephora.com

Yes, it’s exactly as the title has it – cosmetics retailer Sephora recently came under fire for carrying an eye shadow named “Druggie.”

Part of Urban Decay’s “Afterdark” eye shadow palette, the bizarre name choice sparked outrage among consumers and addiction recovery advocates alike, who found it insensitive to people battling addiction.

One of the opponents, Maurah Ruiz has even launched a petition on Change.org, urging Sephora and Urban Decay to rename the controversial eyeshadow.

“I’m not sure if you are aware, but in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported data detailing drug-induced deaths. 47,055 deaths were from drug overdose, 18,893 deaths from pharmaceutical painkillers, and 10,574 deaths from heroin overdose,” Ruiz writes. “That is a total of 76,522 deaths accounted for. All of these people lost their battle with drug addiction can and often times are referred to as “druggies,” and you have named your eyeshadow after them.”

As of this writing, the petition gathered more than 1,250 supporters.

Responding to the criticism, Sephora apologized via Twitter, but did not promise to stop selling the $49 limited edition palette.

We understand that being edgy and bold is a necessity for many a modern brand, especially in the beauty and fashion world. However, in this case, Urban Decay, who call themselves “beauty junkies,” and whose tag line is “addiction has its perks,” may have gone a step too far.

An important lesson that all communicators and brand managers can learn from this PR crisis, is that, regardless of the industry and the products they make, brands do not exist in a vacuum, and their communication should always take into account the sensitivities and points of potential controversy with various publics.

In the meantime, both Urban Decay and Sephora now have a lot of making up to do in order to put this “beauty blunder” behind them.

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