By Shyann Williams


am-apFor Independence Day, you would think one of the largest apparel manufacturers in North America would have the best social media celebrating the country. However, it was the complete opposite for American Apparel after they posted a picture of the Challenger space shuttle disaster before the Fourth of July. The image the company posted was a trail of smoke streaking across a skyline that had been photoshopped red, using the hashtags #smoke and #clouds, suggesting that we were looking at an after image of fireworks.  The company was immediately hammered with negative feedback because the photo wasn’t fireworks at all.

The image was of the 1986 space shuttle Challenger, moments after it exploded following liftoff. The accident instantly ended the lives of all seven of its astronaut passengers. It was the biggest disaster in the history of manned spaceflight, and forever changed not only NASA but Earth’s entire space exploration industry.

American apparel followers quickly recognized the image for what it was and was very angry with the company. The post was deleted, but not before screenshots were taken of it and posted all over social media. On Friday, July 4, American Apparel twitter account sent out an apology:


American Apparel claims that the mistake was made by a social media employee living outside the United States, who was “born after the Challenger’s destruction and was unaware of the event.”

This is a social media fail because the employee who posted the photo is probably in his or her mid-to-late twenties, had “never heard” of the Challenger disaster. This was a tragedy that people today can recall exact details about where there were and what they were doing when the news broke. I believe AA tried to cover for the employee by saying he or she isn’t American and is young. Also the photo doesn’t look like fireworks at all, people who can’t tell the difference between fireworks and a space shuttle explosion shouldn’t be handling your social media.

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Many consumers posted that they weren’t going to shop at American Apparel anymore. There’s nothing to improve with this campaign because it was a “mistake”, however, I think the company should start being more careful with their social media because this wasn’t their first social media fail. In 2012, while Hurricane Sandy was destroying the East Coast, the retailer sent out an e-mail blast stating, “In case you’re bored during the storm. 20 percent off everything for the next 36 hours.” Social media also reacted immediately and negatively to their insensitive sales promotion.

story-apparel2n-1101Unfortunately, I don’t think American Apparel meant to come off offensive but to avoid these situations they should hire social media experts and take it more seriously. I also believe their apology made the situation worst because of the excuses they made. Nowadays we have Google search so this could have been avoided and also age shouldn’t be an excuse either. If your going to work in social media, you should know your history.


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Parrish, R. (2014). Oops: American Apparel shares space shuttle Challenger explosion as fireworks display. Tech Times. Retrieved from:

Wood, S. (2014). American Apparel Mistakes Challenger Explosion for Fireworks. Ad Week. Retrieved from:

Kemp, J. (2014). American Apparel apologizes for posting picture of Challenger disaster as ‘clouds’. New York Daily News. Retrieved from:

Kleinberg, S. (2014). In social media, there are no excuses. The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from: