Abercrombie & Fitch is no stranger to bad publicity. They have faced a number of discriminatory hiring lawsuits
Recently, CEO Mike Jeffries has come under fire for comments he made about his target audience. The retailer has been accused of excluding plus-size women from wearing its clothes by refusing to make or sell any sizes bigger than large. Jeffries explained his strategy in an interview a few years back: “That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anything other than that…Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
These comments have come to light recently with a viral video made that shows a young filmmaker who, angry with Jeffries comments, “re-branded” the company by distributing old Abercrombie clothes to the homeless.
Consumers buy brands, not products. Branding is exclusionary by nature. It is impossible to appeal to 100% of the population- audiences and target consumers are naturally segmented by age, region, political views and various other demographic factors. But, the target audiences is usually more broadly inferred and not so narrowly and controversially stated.
The controversy makes an interesting case study for the strategy of company branding. Abercrombie & Fitch’s brand strategy is clear. It is communicated in its clothing style, advertising, hiring practices and vocally proclaimed by its CEO. It’s an extreme example of branding, but an interesting one. Is it successful? If the goal is to establish a clear identity for them-self does it work for them despite the controversy? Or does the negativity far outweigh its branding success?
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