June 5, 2014

The Desperate Rebranding Attempt of Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch used to dictate what was cool. At least, when I was in middle school it did. In January of 2006, CEO Mike Jeffries described why America’s overweight teens should shop elsewhere in an interview with “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.”

Unfortunately for Abercrombie, those “cool kids” moved on, changed their taste and left A&F in the past. In a recent article, Business Insider summarized a revealing new study that announced the brands becoming more popular among teenage girls were Forever 21, American Eagle and Luluemon. Abercrombie & Fitch ranked second for the brands that teenagers no longer wear. With waning popularity as evidenced by a profit shrinking of 77% last year, the brand is trying to change the store’s image to win back their once-loyal teen target market by turning to social media.

Since Jeffries gave into the pressure to rethink the brand’s outdated marketing strategy, there has been positive change. It partnered with various fashion bloggers and teens who post images of their Abercrombie products on Instagram to help promote the brand online. The store’s dark, loud nightclub atmosphere has disappeared as window blinds were taken down to help create a more inviting, rather than exclusive, look. To fill the space, stores are now experimenting with window displays for the first time. Abercrombie is also replacing the infamous posters of shirtless male models with images and mannequins modeling their clothes.

These radical changes are just the beginning of its rebranding project, but can their desperate turn to social media save the image? I think if Abercrombie & Fitch plays its cards right it might have a chance, but according to Huffington Post, increasingly, young shoppers are looking for “low-cost, fast-fashion” from brands like Forever 21 and H&M. These brands offer teens a wide variety of options, whereas Abercrombie & Fitch is just now starting to sell black clothing and larger sizes.

Although social media might help to create a more positive image of the brand in the minds of the teenage target market, it might be too late to win them back. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but unfortunately social media can’t fix everything. Abercrombie & Fitch should have changed its marketing strategy when the “cool kids” started to ditch them, but sometimes lessons are learned a little too late.