11.Brands in the Hot Seat: A&F

Abercrombie Sign
There has been some recent activity with the brand Abercrombie & Fitch. Call it good, call it bad, but CEO Mike Jeffries says he’s sticking to his ideals regarding the brand and who should be wearing it.

mike-jeffries-ceo-abercrombie-fitch

According to Jeffries, “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, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” Basically Jeffries says if you’re not cool, you can’t wear his shit. Ouch! Regardless of his brand being exclusionary, the fact remains that he is so against a certain body type he is not only propagandizing an image of what beauty is, he is reinforcing this negative image towards young women and men. Furthermore the brand is reflected through Jeffries’ viewpoints, and thus A&F becomes the bully in high school who kicks the smaller or bigger kids around saying their fat, ugly, or uncool.

From a brand perspective, it’s fine to be exclusionary and only target a specific audience. But going around publicly crying that only attractive people to buy your product is not how you set your brand in a positive light. A&F isn’t the first to implement exclusionary tactics, other luxury style brands have been doing the same for years. Yet, the difference between A&F and say, Tiffany’s, is Tiffany & Co. only advertises to a high luxury upper class but still has jewelry that is available to everyone. A&F, says we aren’t even going to bother making our product available to everyone and we also don’t want unattractive people buying our brand. If this doesn’t come as a huge warning sign to A&F, I don’t know what will.

To make matters worse (not better), Jeffries’ issued an apology over the controversial remarks with a half-assed attempt.

Jeffries Apology

It was a P.R. move gone wrong and reminded me of another failed attempt to apologize to consumers.

To say the least, people had, had enough. Greg Karber decided he wanted to do something and made a video to protest the brand’s fault. In a move called “Fitch the Homeless,” Karber goes around and donates A&F clothes to the homeless. Brilliant! Hopefully A&F has seen this and is planning on doing something, who knows if it is good or not. The only downside to Karber’s thesis is the way he represents the homeless in his video-painting them as the epitome of “uncool.” But his heart is in the right place by looking at who really needs clothes.

8. Dove, Branding the Correct Way

DFW Logo - Narrow bodyI’ve always been brand loyal to Dove, not only for their products but also for the way they have set themselves up. Dove’s campaign for real beauty is amazing. They have focused on advertising real women and even set up a social mission for their brand. “Dove® is committed to building positive self-esteem and inspiring all women and girls to reach their full potential—but we need your help.”

In 2004, Dove started the campaign for real beauty. They talked globally with hundreds of women and decided that the definition for true beauty needed to be widened. The commercial-Evolution was produced, showing the transformation of a woman into a model and the unrealistic expectations that are on models (it was shown in 2006).

Some of my favorite ads have been produced by Dove-such as the above, Onslaught. Not only does it convey a powerful message and promote an idea of change, it also is gorgeously produced both visually and graphically.

The current ad from Dove that has caught my eye is their Real Beauty Sketches. They get a sketch artist, who doesn’t see the women, to draw what a woman describes as herself and than a sketch of how a person sees the same woman. This ad goes along with their new campaign-The Dove Movement for Self-Esteem. They target to advertise to the next generation to teach them about real beauty and not what the media perceives as beauty.

Dove is amazing. They’re trying to change a huge problem that many women of all ages, from the young to the old, have either dealt with or are currently struggling. Branding is a journey. You have to shape your brand into something will perceive as real and personal-Dove is doing just that. I know from my own struggles of self-esteem and weight issues that I can relate to what Dove is trying. They have taken something that almost every woman has struggled with and is trying to change; and it’s about time!