Back in May this year, American teen clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire when CEO Michael Jeffries told Salon magazine in an interview:
In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. 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."
It became painfully clear to the general public that his idea of "cool" did not include fat, older or poor individuals when it was revealed that the company does not stock women's apparel above a UK size 14 and reportedly burns unsold clothes rather than donate them (to maintain their exclusivity).
In essence, Michael Jeffries' brand identity, reflected by its staff, models and exclusive policies was meant to look something like this:
Unfortunately for him, the sort of association people are making with the A&F brand looks something more like this:
Taking an Organic View of the Brand we can see that A&F's brand identity is not in control of the managers, but is co-created as a result of individuals' experiences with its interfaces (be they employees or leaked statements to the public), and importantly, brand communities.
The latter has played a huge role in putting A&F clothes onto Michael's unintended, excluded, target market: homeless people. Writer Greg Karber started a popular campaign with his viral video "Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Brand Readjustment #FitchTheHomeless" which got people and celebrities donating their A&F clothes to the homeless, protesting outside of stores, tweeting about it, outraged by the brand. After all, Westerners live in a society that likes to think it's inclusive - and dislike being told what we can and cannot wear.
So how can I fix this?
A&F need to take back the brand into their own hands and give it a good makeover that will rinse the bad taste that's been left in consumers' mouths.
- REVIEW: Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott