When it comes to back-to-school fashion, retail marketers go head-to-head every year to showcase the latest trends for making a good impression.

JC Penney recently aired a commercial as part of its “First Day Look” campaign with what some considered a controversial message linking their clothing to popularity.

As you can see, the advertisement features the voice-over of a mom who explains she shops for her children at JC Penney because it carries name brands at affordable prices. Referring to her son’s wardrobe she says, “This stuff can make or break your entire year.” The commercial then shows the transition from her son being surrounded by other kids in a school cafeteria to being completely alone.

Some consumers haven’t bought into the department store’s statement claiming their intent was not to “trivialize or promote bullying.” They believe the ad blatantly suggests to impressionable young viewers that how you dress determines whether or not you have friends.

Others may agree that JC Penney assigned a social value and benefit to their brand, but would argue that all good marketing strategies do just that – and have since the beginning of time. Ya know, if you buy Nike, you’ll play basketball like Michael Jordan and if you drink SmartWater, you’ll be beautiful like Jennifer Anniston…  So how is this JC Penney ad any different?

Which side of the debate do you fall on?