It all started over Memorial Day weekend, when a Southern California commuter posted a photo of a Culver City JC Penney billboard onto Reddit, a social news site. When blurred, he claimed, the photo resembled Hitler— and fellow Reddit users agreed.
“I thought it was suppose to be Hitler until I read the title. It’s easier to see Hitler than the kettle,” one wrote.
Another joked that, “You have a lot of choices when it comes to kettles, JCPenney would like you to make the reich choice.”
More specifically, the kettle’s handle is said to resemble Hitler’s side hair part, the lid looks like his moustache and the spout resembles a Nazi salute.
About the Kettle
The ad promoted the Bells and Whistles Stainless Steel Tea Kettle, which is part of designer Michael Graves’ line and was sold at Target for the past 10 years.
Paradoxically, what was supposed to be a proud moment for Penney turned into a social media frenzy, and the department store’s PR team quickly started on damage control:
“Totally unintentional,” a brand rep tweeted. “If we’d designed the kettle to look like something, we would’ve gone w/a snowman ”. The tweet included an image of a snowman kettle to illustrate their point.
By Tuesday (May 28), afternoon, the kettle was sold out on JC Penney’s site and in several of its stores. And in an ironic twist, in order to now purchase the product, dubbed the “Hitler tea kettle”, some (sick minded) shoppers are turning to eBay where they are selling for an average $199 each, (the kettle was previously priced at $40).
Despite our request for comment, kettle designer Michael Graves Design remains mum. Still, we did some research to discover that the company happily plugged the billboard on its Facebook page back in May:
“You won’t be able to stop yourself from whistling at us when you see this billboard off the 405 Freeway in LA!!!” said its Facebook page, adding, “If you find it safely shoot us a pic if you can.”
Tough Times For JC Penney
Business insiders following JC Penney know that the troubled chain has had its fare share of ruffles with social media as of late. From the brand’s ‘I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me’ T-shirt slogan controversy, to a recent consumer investigation that found some of Penny’s stores placing higher price stickers on previously market down merchandise and then having a “sale” on the new higher prices— JC Penney can’t seem to catch a break.
Meanwhile, dichotomous reviews for the kettle continue to fill the Internet. Under “Pros,” a recent customer comment applauded its ability to boil water. Under “Cons,” however, the same user wrote, “Looks like Hitler.”