More Abercrombie

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May 25, 2013 by Tamara Piety

More on the Abercrombie and Fitch comments CEO Jeffries about only wanting to market to “cool kids.” The resurrection of these comments from 2006 have sparked several responses as the comments went viral. The latest I’ve encountered is from The Responsible Marketing blog. The author deplores the statements and finds the apology from Jeffries wanting but…

“Does my 11-year-old daughter wear Abercrombie? I am ashamed to admit, yes. Last fall during back to school shopping I got suckered. “But, Mom! Everyone in 6th grade wears Abercrombie!” Nice work, Jeffries. Bravo. Your marketing to be “cool” is working. My daughter was starting a new school and I wanted her to feel confident and excited about going. If a few branded clothing items accomplished that, what was the harm?”

This left the author flummoxed about whether to donate the clothes to Goodwill or engage in some other gesture of disapproval.

Of course, that did not happen. Instead “we discussed why they are so wrong. We talked about body image. Eating disorders. Self-confidence. Inclusion. I told her she can keep her Abercrombie clothes but until Abercrombie apologized AND began making XL and XXL clothes, we were avoiding both Abercrombie and Hollister, their sister company.”

Yep. That’ll show ’em. Not really. But of course there wasn’t a whole lot more the author could do. And after you’ve spent $150.00 you may not have the option of donating those clothes. At a minimum it may just feel like burning money to do so. But did you really need to have the CEO explicitly say that this way the companies’ policy in order to know that Abercrombie & Fitch, like almost every clothier selling to that demographic, is trying to appeal to “the cool kids.” They were just a little more obnoxious about it.

I don’t know that talking about this after the fact is likely to make much of an impression when the thrust of the rest of the culture is celebrating this “cool kids” ethos. It just looks like genuflecting in the direction of concern for social responsibility but without any real bite. And it is hard to see how we could come up with a system that would have bite without significantly rethinking our attitude toward the social utility of advertising.

Is this advertising useful to society or just to the companies which promulgate it and thereby strew cognitive, emotional and social obstacles which parents and children both have to navigate. Is the net benefit worth the cost? It isn’t obvious to me that it is.



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