If you use Facebook or Twitter or read just about anything on the web, you have heard about Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO, Mike Jeffries admitting that his brand was only targeted to “the cool kids”, explaining why A&F doesn’t make XL size clothes for women. I’m not sure why anyone is surprised by this, Jeffries admitted all this to Salon Magazine back in 2006.
““In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told the site. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
So this shouldn’t come as shock, but as social media becomes more prevalent, people are starting to find and share old stories, making them seem like new stories. As a result, A&F may see a backlash against their brand for comments made years ago.
This backlash is happening in a variety of forms, one of the most interesting being a gentleman who has decided to help A&F “rebrand” by handing out A&F clothes to homeless people, photographing them in the clothes with various signage and posting the photos to the web. I don’t happen to like this approach, I think it makes a mockery of homelessness, as well as actually perpetuating the beliefs of Mike Jeffries. Others are just taking a stand – deciding not to purchase their clothes anymore, and one man, the one who actually started this resurgence in interest in the business practices of A&F, has started a petition in “Causes” to get the brand to change their MO. They won’t be changing it, it is entirely and admittedly intentional, and some say it’s working for them.
So do you think this will hurt A&F’s bottom line? Honestly, it probably won’t. This has been happening for years. Why anyone would want to walk into one of their stinky, dimly lit, over priced stores is beyond me, and I think it has been beyond the imagination for a lot of parents for a lot of years. However, teenagers tend to have their own money, and in my opinion they spend it on silly stuff – that’s what Jeffries is banking on.
In the end, I think the moral of this story is to be very aware of what’s out there. Not everyone is okay with being perceived negatively by the majority (though I personally think Jeffries is pushing all of this on purpose to promote the brand the way he sees it). Not everyone can survive that way, that’s why your brand management is so important.
Are you using social media to your best advantage? Have you ever used social media the way A&F has; taking a chance that you will alienate some while attracting others? Risky? Yes. Rude? Absolutely! Is it working for them? Seems to be…