[youtube id=”O95DBxnXiSo” width=”600″ height=”350″]
I wasn’t aware I could dislike a brand more than I already do, but after watching “Abercrombie & Fitch Gets a Brand Readjustment #FitchTheHomeless”, I’ve realized that it is possible. This video was an excellent call to action and method to raise awareness of the comments made by CEO, Michael Jeffries. Not only do I NOT want to shop there, but I want to be part of the movement that catalyzes the demise of Abercrombie & Fitch.
Jeffries was quoted in 2007 saying, “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids… We go after the cool kids… Some people don’t belong and they can’t belong.” High-end retailers and luxury brands are all exclusionary brands, but would any of them be so stupid to publicly state that? He has also been criticized for not making clothes for overweight women because they do not offer sizes XL or XXL. The company has also been accused of burning its defective clothing instead of giving it to the homeless. The worst part for Abercrombie is that they are a market that caters directly to teens who don’t buy their own clothing. Some kids may not care too much about the comments from some old clothing executive, but I can’t see any of this flying over too well with parents who are the final decision makers in this equation.
From a marketing perspective, how can you recover from this? A public apology from Mr. Jeffries has already been released as an attempt to stop the bleeding. Will anyone really read the apology and take it to heart? How bad will the bleeding get? What if the #fitchthehomeless really catches on and celebrities like Taylor Swift go into Abercrombie and Fitch, buy out the store, then make a video of themselves giving the clothing away to the homeless? The video is rapidly approaching seven million viewers and will continue to climb. We saw United Airlines take a significant hit to brand image when a customer created “United Breaks Guitars” based on a poor experience. Although detrimental to brand value, United Airlines was able to take action and address the issue by massive internal changes to maintenance operations and customer service improvements. What can A&F do?
We’ve seen how brands like Old Spice have flourished due to viral videos. On the contraire, can this video lead to a downward spiral for Abercrombie? Only time will tell, but it will be interesting to see how A&F handles this train wreck of negative publicity. Stay #TopRight