In 2006, Abercrombie + Fitch CEO, Michael Jeffries made the following comment:
"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."
Recently, this comment has exploded on the internet and everyone from celebrities, moms, interest groups and students are calling for a ban of the brand due to the fact that they don't produce garments for women over a size 10. (For dudes, THIS is what a size 10 woman looks like).
People may assume that Jeffries and his PR team are huddled away at some Social Media Compound chugging Red Bull and Starbucks trying to figure out how to fix this mess. They'd probably be wrong. Why?
This is absolutely, 100% the best PR and Marketing that Abercrombie + Fitch could get.
Here's the thing.
Almost every brand is exclusive in their own right. They have to be in order to gain competitive advantage. What's different about this situation is that Jeffries is proclaiming it. Do you think Porsche is ever going to lead in with a campaign that says "we're only for the rich"? Will Chubbies start a campaign called "douchebags of the world unite?" (No seriously, WTF is this?)
This press is a GOLD MINE for Abercrombie + Fitch because it does what every brand wishes it could easily do: Create High-Level Brand ROI. Brand ROI is loosely defined as how a consumer perceives a brand before, during or after a purchase; or in laymen's terms how a brand makes a person feel after they purchased.
Let's Break it Down
When you buy and drink a coffee from Starbucks, do you feel like those happy smiling sippers who are reading Moby Dick in their 3rd floor Penthouse with color categorized books in the background? Probably not.
When you buy a jacket at GAP do you boldly strut your stuff around and actively tell people that you got it at GAP? Maybe, but then you'd be sorta weird.
Say you're a 13 - 18 year old (which is also the most hard fought over age demographic in the US for Marketers) who just found out that there's a brand saying that only cool, popular and good looking kids can wear their brand. Are you mature enough to stand up and say: "That's not right and I'm going to protest it because of my morals and values."? Probably not.
This is positive for the brand on so many levels because A+F has all but tapped into the largest categorical demographic of teenagers.
- The popular (and insecure) kids will wear the brand to solidify their status.
- The not so popular kids will wear the brand to exemplify the popular kids.
- The kids who can't fit in the clothes will take necessary measures to eventually fit in them.
Do not confuse any of this by saying I support the brand and/or Jeffries. I'm simply pointing out that the more outcry and protesting there is could (and probably will) lead to an overall sales increase. Typically, the popular kids are also the rich kids which means they have the most spending power. And as long as the below exists, there will always be brands like Abercrombie + Fitch.
Thoughts or comments? Leave em in the comment section or email me at email@example.com. Also, you know you kind of want to play this song now right?
On April 18th, Nick Wooster resigned from his position as SVP of Product Development at JCP (formerly JC Penney's). This happened a week after Ron Johnson (who hired Wooster) resigned as CEO. During their 16 month tenure, sales tumbled 32%.
Wooster gave WWD an honest quote on how the company could gain back the customers it lost: ".... make cute shit." Can't blame the guy for cutting to the chase right?
So what went wrong?
In my opinion, this can be summed up in two broad hypotheses that I'll try and detail out:
1. The company rebranded its image without changing its product offering.
2. The company confused its core customers with inconsistent messaging.
Listen, the rebrand was fine in my opinion. I actually like it. It's a little too similar to the GAP rebrand fiasco a couple years back but, in general, it does a good job of keeping the core values of the brand (especially since they're HQd in Texas) but also making it not seem too fashion-forward. I don't really see this hurting their image and think it will actually help them in the LONG run.
Johnson & Wooster
Sounds like an evil law firm right?
JCP hiring Nick Wooster to helm Product Development was the equivalency of Sears hiring a fashion blogger to run their Product Development. Oh wait... no that's exactly what happened. I don't know the semantics involved in Wooster's position and/or if he was hired as a figure head or he was actually making critical cost-analyzed decisions but I doubt the latter. I don't doubt his ability to trend forecast for a second but 16 months went by and the only thing that changed at JCP was how the brands were advertised; not the ACTUAL brands. Therein lies the blunder.
Nick Wooster will take a lot of heat and association with the changes done in how they advertised the brand but the fact is that I reckon he had very little influence in the overall communication strategy. I credit Johnson for that. And the sad thing is that I LOVED it.
Check out the results of Johnson's communication rebrand below:
Awesome right? Truly remarkable, beautiful, engaging, soul-touching, fashion-appropriate, lifestyle appropriate. This COULD have worked.
Why didn't it work then?
That brings us back to Nick Wooster and his responsibilities.
If you're going to rebrand your image from top to bottom, then you HAVE to alter the product offering. As engaging and exciting as these ads were, it must be recognized that the advertised brands were IZOD, MNG by MANGO, LIZ CLAIBORNE and LEVIS. Wooster either had his hands tied or he simply failed to convince better retailers to jump on board.
Why did they lose 32% of their customer base?
Take a look at this ad below that was released on February 24th, 2013 entitled "Dear America"
Now take a look at the ad below released on April 11th, 2013.
The above ad is titled "Dear Smart Shopper". Super interesting right?
Here's the key things to look at in these videos:
- It's the same footage from the same shoot.
- Dear America has no prices in it.
- Dear America has no friendly lady talking behind it.
By REMOVING pricing and value from their advertising, they lost a majority of their core customer base. This is pretty obvious to me and it, honestly, should have been anticipated to some degree by senior executives and strategists.
What should / could they have done?
As I stated above, they should have anticipated that they would lose a large portion of their core customers. Companies who go through this severe of a rebrand need to be able to back it up with an updated product offering. I don't really see any scenario where JCP would be able to secure the same retailers as Barneys or Neiman Marcus but they really needed to secure at least a couple more style-forward / fashion-forward retailers in order to attract a new customer base. Even though The Shoppes at Target and H&M Collaborations are growing tiresome, it could've worked at JCP (and with a better partner than Liz Claiborne).
In the least, they could've saved themselves a lot of headaches by easing into the rebrand instead of ripping the bandaid off.
What can other brands learn from this?
Plain and simple, know your audience and fully recognize the risks. Detailed:
- If you're going to rebrand, make sure that you have good reason to and that it is for the betterment of your company.
- If you're going to drastically change the messaging and branding of your company, critically consider if you need to change your product offering as well.
- If your marketing and advertising communication has been focused on value and sales based efforts, know that deviating from that will result in immediate and drastic sales dips.
- Don't hire fashion bloggers as SVPs of anything.
Thoughts or comments? Leave em in the comment section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you ever seen the following links in your twitter / social feeds?
nyti.ms/xxxxxxx | New York Times
huff.to/xxxxxxx | Huffington Post
rol.st/xxxxxxx | Rolling Stone
warby.me/xxxxxxx | Warby Parker
You may have never thought twice about these things and/or assumed that there was some sort of voodoo magic, superior tech needs or tons of money to do this. WRONG
This, in fact, took me about 15 minutes, $15.00 and then a 3 hours wait for the DNS Registration to kick in. (I'll explain what that means later). I now have a custom bit.ly name called Pokey.Co. This means that you will get to enjoy all future links with the convenience of having my most common nickname "Pokey". (Pokes was not available). Don't understand what I'm talking about? Click on this: http://pokey.co/17A0gIY .... and you're back.
For those of you who are already telling me "SOLD" how do you can find that out here: http://pokey.co/106Lcgq.
This mostly only applies to brands and companies but as someone who works in that industry and as someone who is trying to write and evangelize about it more frequently, I found it to be something that would be more "interesting" than anything else.
Still scratching your head? Okay.... leggo...
While Google Analytics and other services can provide you with a plethora of information (and even most of what Bit.Ly can provide), it is lost in a deep chasm of other metrics and features. Sometimes when you post a link, a brand may just want to know the following:
- How many clicks?
- Where did they click from?
- What social site referred them?
- When did they click?
There's not a ton of incredibly important and life-altering features here but, again, it's more interesting than anything else.
- If my company Alton Lane were to post a link to our website and we entered in http://www.altonlane.com/shop/new/shirts into Twitter's desktop app, Twitter will automatically reduce that link to something like http://AltonLane.com/sho...... using their internally built API.
- If someone using Tweetie, Hoot Suite or Twitteriffic RT's the post, their own service may automatically reduce the URL to a t.co or an even shorter link.
By having a UNIQUE URL (in my case, Pokey.Co) and then serving it through bit.ly's custom domain name service, I now will be able to view all clicks even if someone RT's it and their twitter service changes the URL. SO COOL RIGHT?
The last reason you may want this is simply for branding purposes. I mean, it's just pretty neat right? And it makes you look more professional (at least I think so).
The Analytics for Bit.ly are below. Pretty slick right?
Any Questions or Thoughts? Comment Section Below! I fully expect all my friends (specifically the photographers and graphic designers to have one of these by the end of the week).
Last year when I was consulting, I was constantly asked by every client about Social Media. "We need to get better at social." "Your 8 month rebrand and communication strategy looks great but what are we going to do about Twitter?" "We should instagram that right?" These were comments that I constantly dealt with on a continual basis.
Far too often, small brands observe what bigger brands are doing and then look at their small staff & budgets and expect the same results. Ad Age and MediaPost pepper subscribers each day with ads of the day and best social execution of the week but what seldom few understand is the fundamental difference between Social Media, Community Management and Social Engagement.
Before I continue, let's get a couple things straight.
1. There is no such thing as a Social Media Expert. If you see that title in someone's Linked In profile or Twitter Handle you can instantly discredit them.
2. If properly strategized and executed, Social Media should NOT be considered a direct revenue building platform and, as a result, should not have associated ROI built into it.
3. This Girl (Below). Yes she actually messaged a page that I used to manage.
Facebook used to be the king of engagement and now they are the King of retargeting. Facebook isn't going away y'all. Admit that despite the fact that you may not wall post, photo upload or poke that often anymore, you still browse and Like everyone else's stuff once in a while. BUT what that means for brands is that most feel forced to fight for impressions.
Below is a sponsored post by BONOBOS. I saw this photo at least 50 times in the span of three weeks always at the top of my news feed. At 300,000 LIKES and for that much frequency, I can pretty much assume that BONOBOS paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000 - $2,000 for this one post. (now also imagine how many brands there are on Facebook doing the same thing and you'll understand why Facebook is a billion dollar company).
Here's the problem with this strategy:
1st Impression: Oh cool. That's a good photo. It's 50 degrees outside though.
2nd Impression: Oh look. There's those bathing suits again.
3rd Impression: I get it. You have bathing suits.
4th Impression: For the love of God, why am I still seeing these bathing suits?
Now there is DEFINITELY a "stop seeing this advertisement" feature on Facebook. Herein lies the problem: If the only click you are generating is to have someone stop getting fed an ad, then your long term strategy is flawed.
Here's why this strategy may work (for Bonobos):
1. Bonobos' brand strategy is targeted to casual customers who are fed a lifestyle that is clouded with being perceived as fashion. Bonobos is not a fashion brand. They are a retail brand that is trying to convince potential customers otherwise. At the end of the day it's chinos, polos and shirts. Because their price point is friendly, they deem it justified to have an aggressive social strategy.
2. They are 100% online. If your brand's current revenue is more wholesale or in-store based, then social is not going put a dent in your numbers. Liking a photo does not equal an intent to purchase. However, having an immediate call to action to a direct selling point, you will increase your ability to capture sales immediately.
Here's why this strategy probably won't work:
1. People want sales. The ability to convince a person to click off of their social feed directly to a shopping cart needs to come coupled in with a promotion. Facebook has a neat little OFFER feature that most brands don't take advantage of. It's not intrusive and it directly allows you to communicate the sale and the customer gets a nice little email sent to their inbox with the coupon code or coupon to print off. More importantly, the customer will be able to continue browsing.
- Facebook should be used to just instill a small "moment of happiness" for your likers, fans and customers. Coca Cola (the largest facebook fan page) did a comprehensive study on social engagement. Their results: "...online buzz had no quantifiable impact on short-term sales...." BOOM. That "moment of happiness" can be a photo, video, quote, whatever, but as a brand or community manager, you need to stop putting ROI and effectiveness measured against, LIKES, SHARES and COMMENTS. Just keep your brand effectively and strategically in your LIKERS minds.
- If your product offering has an average price point above $300, realize a majority of your fans/likers/customers are going to be persons who strive to be able to afford your products but likely won't for a while. It's then your job to continue to "sell the brand and lifestyle".
Any thoughts on this? There's a comments section below or you can email me at Nate@TheMaverickAgency.com.
I was recently introduced to Harry's through my friend Collin who has done some photography work for them. I'm always intrigued and drawn to companies that have a great business model but also really great branding.
Founded by Andy Katz-Mayfield and Jeff Raider, Harry's follows the lead of companies like Warby Parker in terms of their Philosophy and Story. (It probably helps that Raider is one of the original four co-founders of Warby). Their premise is pretty similar to WP:
1) Find a saturated market with inflated margins.
2) Educate customers on why/how they're overpaying.
3) Provide a better designed product with better materials.
4) Make it clean and sexy.
I'm pretty impressed with the overall presentation and with the experience I got. They did a great job with packaging and communication on my order and shipment. Did I mention that I got all of the above for $15.00?