How far we have come since 2006.
First, proof that online “content farms” are pretty much good for nothing: the stinkpile Business Insider digs up an old quote from the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries.
Second, proof that our helicopter-parenting-made-everyone-a-winner society has reached a new low: the social-media-sphere is at Defcon 1, vis-à-vis shock and awe, regarding what the CEO said (when no one gave a rat’s ass about it in 2006).
Third, proof that no one understands marketing strategy, least of all the opinion writers at trade pubs like MediaPost and business analysts at sites like Forbes: all of them pilloried A&F’s CEO, and declared the company’s marketing strategy a failure (as of 2013, mind you).
To wit, from MediaPost: “the episode is a powerful reminder that in the Relationship Era, you can do all the soft-porn advertising you want, but your image is not in your control.”
This is one more iteration in a long line of “the consumer controls your brand” bullsh*t statements. Funny that Abercrombie was doing just fine with its image until the public at large took “control” of it a couple of weeks ago – now, we have brand anarchy.
Here are the snippets of the A&F CEO’s quotes from the 2006 Salon article that are currently being cherry picked and replayed ad nauseam:
“We go after the cool kids…we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
“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.”
That in a nutshell is proof that Mike Jeffries understands the starting point for marketing strategy – segmentation and targeting.
In fact, 2013’s revisionist historians forgot that Jeffries runs a successful business. From the same 2006 Salon article about Abercrombie: “…in DNR, a newsmagazine about men’s fashion and retail, the magazine noted that ‘not since Ralph Lauren’s ascent in the 1980s has a single brand perfected a lifestyle-based look so often alluded to and imitated.’ ”
To be sure, Abercrombie & Fitch faces significant secular change in the near term that it must determine how to address. In our humble opinion, however, we don’t believe segmentation and targeting needs any fixin’. Let us cherry pick from the 2006 story and show you what else Jeffries had to say, that everyone else – in their haste to pile on to some kind of cause (see “eating disorder;” “clothes for the homeless;” etc.) – seems to want to overlook:
“Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
“…we try to be funny, and we try to stay authentic and relevant to our target customer. I really don’t care what anyone other than our target customer thinks.”
We almost plotzed when we saw the word “authentic.” Imagine, Jeffries was using the term long before brand bloggers started tossing it around left and right like so much salad.
Finally, this cherry of a cherry-picked quote. Jeffries must have seen 2013 coming – a politically-correct-on-steroids era, when anyone who feels like an outsider can have his or her day in (an online) court, demanding some tendentious sort of justice:
“It’s all depicting this wonderful camaraderie, friendship, and playfulness that exist in this generation and, candidly, does not exist in the older generation.”
An older generation, passed over and bitter, trying to tell a profitable $ 4.5 billion business how to do a better job marketing to kids. Something Abercrombie & Fitch has been doing pretty well. Since at least 2006.