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Anastasia Roumelioti Headshot

Reflecting on A&F's CEO and #Fitchthehomeless Campaign

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I just came across the #Fitchthehomeless anti-campaign with a social message for Abercrombie & Fitch. The company's CEO, Mike Jeffries, recently admitted that the brand is going after the "cool" kids, after being accused about not carrying XL or higher sizes for women, while having XL and XXL for men. This adds to their policy of hiring only good-looking employees that are dressed provocatively in the store.

"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."

Lessons learned from A&F's CEO:
  1. Marketing segmentation is the most important part of a company's strategy when creating a brand identity. A brand cannot be everything to everybody (and does not want to). The company is trying to associate the brand with the "coolness" of the pretty/slim/fashionable people.
  2. Brand associations cannot happen with simple words; tangible evidence is necessary. A&F cannot just say that it is a "cool brand"; they need clients (and employees) brand ambassadors to establish this.
  3. What is "cool" in our society is defined by our body type and the size of clothes that we wear. Your "coolness" has to be declared with an A&F T-shirt, so that people know you are cool before they know your name. Also, if you have a few extra pounds, you cannot appreciate fashion. But, as Woody Allen said, what if when you lose weight, you end up losing the best part of yourself?
  4. Even when you are the CEO of a big company, you need to consult your PR person before any public speaking.
  5. There is no such thing as bad publicity. A&F's CEO words might have gone viral, but guess what: There are so many CEOs out there that they say things and only a small percentage of the population gets to hear them. He may not be the most likable person right now, but we all know his name.

Although I was confused with the cynicism of A&F's CEO that they target the cool kids, I was more confused by the reaction. I fully support any donation to the ones in need, but why do we care so much about this particular brand and its CEO's politically incorrect position? He might be the one to say it out loud, but there are so many other brands and companies who follow the exact same strategy. The reason why this strategy is successful is because people fall for it.

When Mr. Jeffries said that they are targeting the cool kids, they aren't really targeting the cool kids. They are targeting the kids who want to be perceived as cool, who lack their own identity and personality and need a "brand endorsement" to fit in. I am more concerned about these kids because eventually they will grow up, become active members of this society and participate in decision making for our future.

In a nutshell, I am saying that the anti-campaign that started with a goal to "hurt" the A&F brand by giving the products to the poor is not going to be effective because the message it conveys to the company is to have their CEO consult their PR person in advance of any interview and it creates more brand awareness for A&F (now even my grandma knows about it).

What would have a great impact and lead our society's future to the right direction, is an educational campaign to the "cool-kids-buyers-of-A&F-brands"'s parents on why their children want to wear this brand, give them advice to help them shape their own identity and not to feel left out if they can't afford or fit or like to wear these clothes.

At the end of the day, the consumer has the power of choice.