Abercrombie Responding to Negative PR With New Campaign

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

There was a time when Abercrombie & Fitch ruled fashion for teens and young adults. Their branded hoodies and t-shirts were practically ubiquitous inclusions in millions of teenagers’ wardrobes. Then, in the blink of an eye, things changed.

Challenged on their advertising tactics, A&F initially doubled down, drawing a proverbial line in the sand, saying their product was for their select customers, and anyone who didn’t like it could, essentially, shop elsewhere. At least, that’s how the message from the company was perceived. And that perception did serious damage to the brand and its sales.

Abercrombie Responding to Negative PR With New CampaignThings appear to be shifting somewhat at A&F, though. With the new release of the company’s “Fierce” men’s cologne, there comes a different kind of advertising. Where there was once perfectly-sculpted pretty people and beefcake models, there is now a group of “eclectic” young people sharing about how they face their fears and unlock inner strength.

The campaign is a very different sort from what most people expect of Abercrombie, and it’s also more in keeping with trends in marketing to Millennials. Sure, there are still athletes in the ads, but there are also activists, advocates and even active duty firefighters, a tip of the cap to those who fought the recent California wildfires.

When asked about the new messaging approach, Abercrombie brand CEO Fran Horowitz, called the shift a stabilization: “We’ve spent the past couple of years on a journey to stabilize the Abercrombie brand… We’ve done a lot of listening to our customers.”

The company is also paying close attention to winning marketing trends. The packaging will include images of athletes that have not been retouched, a decision that has paid off well for other brands in the health and beauty space.

Another calculated decision: marketing to Millennial women. Horowitz told the media that, while Fierce is a men’s fragrance, many women actually buy the product, either for themselves or for the men in their lives. According to media reports, Horowitz says this new marketing direction is not a one-and-done experiment. She said the new look is “indicative of where the brand is headed.”

Speaking to the media, other A&F executives have said the shift is a direct result of “leaning into the consumer mindset and showing a much more diverse group with stories that can resonate with a lot of people…”

That stance is a far cry from “this is us and this is who we want to appeal to” which was, essentially the company’s previous, less popular, stance. The remaining question, now, is how committed is A&F to this new vision… and, more importantly, will customers buy it?

Ronn Torossian - Former NYT Editor Responds to “Errors”About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.