Auschwitz is not a marketing strategy and neither is blaming your users

Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, an event that is largely seen as a critical turning point in World War II. In the following 15 months, Allied Forces would bring an end to the Nazi regime and discover the death camps throughout Europe and the Holocaust that took place.

Some camps have been preserved as memorials of what happened, in hopes that nothing like this will ever happen again. However, there’s a reason why you have never seen a “My friend went to a concentration camp and all I got was this lousy T-shirt” kinds of products out there: Auschwitz is not a marketing strategy, something that apparently came as a shock to internet store, Redbubble:


Redbubble, which began in 2006, is an Australian company that promotes itself as a marketplace in which artists can sell their artistic efforts to people interested in unique products. The company states it connects more than 700,000 artists and designers all around the planet.

The company responded on Twitter, noting it would remove the offensive material and that it has community guidelines that are suppose to prevent this kind of thing:

Redbubble Help responded to the Auschwitz Memorial tweet on Tuesday, writing: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The nature of this content is not acceptable and is not in line with our Community Guidelines.”

“We are taking immediate action to remove these and similar works available on these product types,” it added.

It also said Redbubble “is the host of an online marketplace where independent users take responsibility for the images they upload.”

The “Community Guidelines” actually touch on two aspects of this, neither of which is really helpful in guiding people not to wear Auschwitz:

Redbubble is a respectful, supportive, and encouraging community who is deeply passionate about art and creativity. We welcome artists of all experience levels and walks of life. Redbubble asks that you do not seek or engage with content you don’t agree with (no need for troublemaking). And if you see behavior or content that goes against our guidelines, please flag it through one of the reporting functions on our site. Above all, we urge you to make the most of your time here by offering support to artists. Contribute positively to the community, and you’ll find that Redbubble can be a fun and rewarding place. (Yay.)


Works that deal with catastrophic events such as genocides or holocausts need to be sensitively handled. Works that have the potential to cause the victims serious distress may be removed.

Even more, this wasn’t the first dumb Holocaust-themed item for which it managed to provide a marketplace:


In terms of bad marketing, weak apology and generally not getting the full weight of one’s own responsibility, this will likely serve as a decent case study for media classes. If you decide to work in marketing, it’s wise to remember three simple rules:

  1. Even if you aren’t legally responsible for content, it doesn’t follow that the public won’t dislike you for that content.
  2. Blaming your users for something you should have caught (it says “Auschwitz” right on the sales page for these thing), is the grown-up equivalent of “BUT HE STARTED IT!” That boat won’t float.
  3. Genocidal acts aren’t a marketing strategy. I know this pretty much goes without saying, but clearly it needed to be said, because as recently as a month ago, a multi-national marketer of myriad products allowed you to buy a skirt/purse/pillow combo featuring a death camp. Just as stupid as it is when reporters refer to people as being like Hitler, a group of people being like the Nazis or a rigorous event as akin to the Bataan Death March, the Redbubble situation is equally stupid here.

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