Since my last blog post about diversity marketing blunders I've found additional blunders that offer the same lesson for organizations -- hiring a diverse work team and creating an inclusive organizational culture in which all employees are able to voice their opinions can help you avoid these embarrassing and potentially damaging blunders.
Everyone makes mistakes so there is no guarantee that these missteps can be completely avoided. But increasing diversity increases the perspectives at the table and the opportunity for potential blunders to be identified and corrected before they become public.
Below are five additional blunders that the perspectives of staff from diverse communities, backgrounds and identities could have helped these organizations avoid.
1. Urban Outfitters Holiday Party
Urban Outfitters offers many examples of blunders that various groups have found to be insensitive or offensive. Recently, Urban Outfitters decided to ask employees to wear the clothing of other cultures - juttis, kurtas, turbans, saris, lehenga cholis, harem pants - as a festive costume for its Holiday Party at its headquarters in Philadelphia.
This comes after the corporation had recently come under criticism for appropriation of Aboriginal culture and various religions. A Huffington Post columnist referred to the theme for the holiday party as "another symptom of systemic, insidious racism."
2. Walmart Halloween Costumes
Halloween seems to be a perennial source of diversity blunders as people continue to use the cultures of others as a Halloween costume. This has become so much of an issue that various organizations have begun "My culture is not a costume" awareness campaigns.
This past Halloween, Walmart was criticized for selling a costume called the "Pashtun Papa" which included a traditional Afghan robe and turban with a big, silver beard.
The description on the website read, "Whether you're making a serious political statement or staging a polical [sic] parody, this authentic-looking outfit is sure to fit the bill! ... Nothing is sacred this Halloween. Shock your friends with this Islamic costume."
After an online uproar, Walmart removed the offensive outfit from its website and issued an apology.
3. CNN's #AskACop Backfires
While worldwide protests continue in response to police killings of unarmed African Americans, CNN organized a town hall and asked the twittersphere to tweet questions for law enforcement officers.
Within hours, the hashtag became a top trender on Twitter, as people used it to vent their anger and negative feelings about police. Within hours, the hashtag was trending across the U.S. Within 24 hours it had nearly 130,000 tweets.
This outcome could have been predicted by anyone familiar with the demonstrations and the experience of the New York Police Department's #MyNYPD public outreach campaign in April discussed in my previous blog post. As one writer noted in an article about the subject, "It was a social media backfire just waiting to happen."
4. Missouri Bar's Drink Special
A Missouri bar that advertises itself as a place "Where sarcasm is always free," was criticized on social media for promoting a "Michael Brown" drink special, which offers 6 shots for $10. This was just months after the unarmed African American teen, Michael Brown, was shot 6 times by a police officer and killed.
After being picketed, the co-owner of the bar apologized, saying that he got the idea after another bar posted a similar special on their Facebook page and got a good response.
5. Apartheid Cocktail
Icelandair offered its "simply scrumptious" Apartheid cocktail on sale at its hotel in Reykjavik.
After concern was raised about its choice of words, the airline apologized saying “Our Iceland-based team member was unaware of the word’s meaning.”