Wal-Mart’s Big Boo-Boo

You may recall Wal-Mart’s use of Nazi imagery in an ad meant to fight an “anti-big box” measure in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Now, there’s another ugly incident.
Bent Corner is reporting that t-shirts emblazoned with the Totenkopf or “Death’s Head” are currently available for purchase at your friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart.
[UPDATE] Edleman, Wal-Mart’s PR firm, is all over this. This post has been up but 30 minutes and already I have an email from Marshall Manson at Edleman. Here’s the official message from Bentonville:

We were not aware of the origins of the image until this morning when we learned about it through the blog Bent Corner.
We are deeply sorry that this happened, and we are in the process of pulling all of these t-shirts from our stores.
Respect for the individual is a core value of our company and we would never have placed this t-shirt on our shelves had we known the origin and significance of this emblem.
We are reviewing our product review process in an effort to ensure this never happens again.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. At first I thought, man heads are gonna roll in Arkansas (couldn’t resist). But wikipedia isn’t exactly the most accurate source of info. If you look at the page for that image, it even says that this image “has no source information”. So it could just be an interpretation of the Totenkopf. Or just a stylized skull-and-crossbones design. That leads me to believe that the designer of the shirt and the person who uploaded the image on wikipedia were using the same unattributed stock image file. Google “totenkopf” under images and you’ll see real examples, which are different from this one. So it’s not a straight copy.
    Wal-Mart was probably trying to capitalize on the inexplicable pirate trend and had no idea of other associations with this type of skull-and-crossbones design.