Top 6 Controversial Brands In The World

POSTED BY Heather Johnson, UPDATED ON April 17th, 2024
Top 6 Controversial Brands in the World

Throughout the last couple of decades, with print media and digital media becoming both, more accessible and more usable for marketing techniques – we’ve seen a rise in companies embracing the popularity of these techniques for their own benefits. Some companies have notoriously released hugely controversial campaigns, the aim of which is nothing more than to gain publicity and to get their brand name on everyone’s lips. Understandably, companies want to make a name for themselves, especially as there is so much competition. Maybe being controversial works for some businesses, but unfortunately, it might not be for everyone. Some people are willing to take risks. Some brands, however, are controversial for different reasons, meaning that some brands and companies offer services that are controversial themselves. Here we’ll run through some iconic controversial brands in the world:




This clothing brand has a controversial label for no other reason than its name. When the company re-branded itself as FCUK they claimed the name was short for “French Connection UK” – however, the complaints came when the brand started releasing printed shirts and jumpers with slogans such as “FCUK me” and “Hot as FCUK”.

Parents weren’t keen on their underage children purchasing such items and so the complaints flooded in. The slogans weren’t removed though, and the name FCUK still stands today.




Another clothing brand here, this time made controversial because of their marketing and advertising campaigns. The brand has become so synonymous with controversial advertising that media students have even examined their techniques.

Campaigns include billboards with human hearts, the moment of death as an aids patient dies, birth, conception, mixed-race children (with extreme and volatile stereotyping), and religious situations that would be considered “sinful”. It seems there is no person left un-offended by their advertisements – which is perhaps what has made them so iconic.



controversial brand Facebook

Another controversial brand – this online social networking website has come under more scrutiny than its competition because of its online privacy policies.

Many users feel that Facebook shouldn’t use user data for political manipulation, shouldn’t extensively track user behavior for advertisement targeting, and shouldn’t own the rights to photographs uploaded. Many feel like the privacy policy is too loose and needs to be tightened greatly for the protection of users.


American Apparel

American Apparel

This clothing and lifestyle brand is notorious in advertising for its risqué use of models and positioning of clothing. It seems that every season the clothing brand is coming under more scrutiny for scantily clad models on the sides of buses.

The brand plays off its reputation though and enjoys its controversial appearance.


News International (News of the World)

News International

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last year – you’ll have heard of the News International brand and the controversy surrounding their phone hacking scandals and where they locate their news stories.

The controversy hasn’t worked in their favor though; the company has had to let go of some of its senior reporters and directors, having had to pay thousands of pounds of compensation, and has had to close down one of its biggest selling publications.

The controversy is ongoing too, as new complaints and evidence against them surface every month.


Sisley Fashion

Sisley Fashion

This fashion brand (which is based in France) came under huge controversy because of a particular advertising campaign they recently released that glamorized drug use. The photograph showed two young models “snorting” a white dress that had been laid out to look like cocaine. The tagline was “fashion junkie”.

Unsurprisingly, the advert received numerous complaints and the brand has never quite recovered from its controversial reputation.

So what do you think? Does a brand being controversial put you off investing in their products? Would you be put off a brand because they’re involved in controversy or being reported about in the news?

Many of the brands above have embraced their status as controversial – but some would do anything to take back the controversy. Did we miss any noteworthy controversial brands in the world? Let us know in the comments below!

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