Marketing Strategy / Opinion

Abercrombie & Fitch’s right-on offensive genius

There’s a row breaking out over comments made by Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO, Mike Jeffries, who, in a nutshell, doesn’t want the fat and/or ugly and/or uncool wearing his clothes.

The strength of the rumpus his comments have made show how little people actually know about marketing.

Because if they knew something about the discipline, they’d be able to appreciate Jeffries’ genius.  Let me explain.

Marketing is all about definition and targeting.

Define your audience, know your audience, sell to your audience.

A&F unashamedly go after the ‘cool kids’.  It’s pretty much their manifesto.

And they define ‘cool kids’ as the thin, attractive ones.

It might not be ‘right’, and it’s certainly not ‘inclusive’.  It may even be a bit abhorrent, if you feel strongly about such things (as some ‘celebrities’ such as Kirstie Alley do).

But it’s their positioning – and it’s tight.

Certainly as tight as the major catwalk labels (when did you see someone of ‘normal’ proportions teetering down the runway?), who aren’t generating this amount of flack.

And definitely as tight as their skinny jeans.

By defining their audience in such a narrow way, they’ve streamlined their production pipeline and created a massive aura of exclusivity around the brand.

They are, unashamedly, saying “If you fit us, we fit you”.

In doing so, they’re creating a community which will use the brand as its very own price of entry.  And it’s this community of the ‘right people’ with the ‘right’ amount of disposable income who use clothes and fashion to start defining themselves and their place in the world.

)At a different level, Marks and Spencer’s rode out a load of flack when they decided they weren’t going to focus on the 60+ market.  Again, perfect positioning for the brand and its bottom line ambitions.)

The brand that stands for everything, stands for nothing.

Anyone who knows anything about marketing knows this.

Try to please everybody, and you’ll end up with a vanilla product which doesn’t really please anyone.

Mike Jeffries knows this.  And he’s prepared to piss off most of America saying it.

It’s a brave stance.

But it’s a stance which will deliver results directly to the brand’s bottom line – so long as they stay the course.

All of the online noise, the clothing of the homeless in A&F garb, the pleas from celebrities to boycott stores will achieve exactly what the brand wants – higher brand recognition, more brand chatter and an infusion of rebellion into a fashion choice.

Who likes to rebel the most?  Teenagers.

Who likes to be tribal the most? Teenagers.

And who are Abercrombie & Fitch mostly targetting?  Teenagers.


If you want to continue reading about this, then, in my opinion, Roger Dooley’s piece for Forbes is the definitive one and worthy of your time.

Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
You can follow Neil on Twitter, circle him (like an escaped bull) on Google+ or track him down in any number of other ways.

Image comes from eVo Photo on Flickr under Creative Commons.


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