We Have a Situation

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Deb Brown.

Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch recently said publicly that it would “offer substantial payment to MTV’s The Jersey Shore’s cast members to stop wearing the brand on air.” Apparently, Mike “the Situation” Sorrentino wore the trendy clothes on a recent episode and Abercrombie & Fitch stated that his “association with the brand could cause significant damage to our image.”

The_clothes_make_the__man_kleinWow.  I had to think about this for a minute.  So, the famed (or infamous) retailer, which has had its own image issues with sexually explicit ads (among other problems), and which sells primarily to 18-22 year-olds (probably the only audience for The Jersey Shore) really doesn’t want the Situation strutting about in its clothes?  Are they serious?  Or, is this a way to drum up a fake battle between The Jersey Shore cast members and the retailer for more publicity?

So, then I came across another story in which Chief Executive Mike Jeffries said of the actual situation, “We’re having a lot of fun with it.”  Actually, Jeffries brought up the situation on an analyst call, saying “Is no one going to ask about the Situation?”  I think the reason the analysts didn’t ask is because they didn’t give a damn.  But then one finally took the bait.

So, that’s the answer.  They’re not serious.  They’re looking for a marketing gimmick to sell more clothes, but it’s not smart.  Think about it.  They’re pulling free advertising from their own audience and how long do they think this situation will go on for?  A few hours?  Maybe a couple of days?  Then what?  They’re out-of-sight, out-of-mind with their key audience with regards to this particular show.  Plus, Abercrombie & Fitch sells a t-shirt called the “Fitchuation.”  Really?  Their stupid stunt is so transparent it doesn’t work.

On the WSJ blog, they have a quick poll.  Is the stunt brilliant or a bomb? Believe it or not, it was pretty much even, with only a slight majority saying brilliant.  Sigh.  Normally, I wouldn’t be surprised since our society is filled with too many people addicted to reality shows, each of which manages to outdo the other to see how low they can go.  But, I was surprised since it was the Wall Street Journal’s audience. 

Smart marketing and publicity help to elevate a company’s brand and grow its bottom line.  At first, I thought Abercrombie was having problems with sales.  But, earnings released on Aug. 17th said earnings are up 64 percent and sales have increased in the U.S. and internationally.  However, on the analyst call, Jeffries talked about “entering a period of greater uncertainty” and shares dropped 8 percent. Or maybe the investors didn’t think the Situation situation was smart enough to invest in.

So, what’s up with this short-lived gimmick?  Who knows?  Probably an inexperienced marketing team that’s looking for quick attention to the brand rather than a well-thought out strategy. 

Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man.  Naked people have little or no influence on society.”  In this case, Abercrombie & Fitch certainly doesn’t make the Situation…anything.  And, now Abercrombie & Fitch make believe they want out.  The clothing retailer and the Situation deserve one another.  Abercrombie & Fitch shouldn’t pay the Situation and other cast members not to wear its clothes; instead, it should be a major sponsor of this tasteless show.

2 thoughts on “We Have a Situation

  1. Good piece, Deb. A&F’s motives are ridiculously transparent.
    The only bit of irony here is until Limited bought the A&F name in the late Eighties, its brand appeal was as “an elite outfitter of sporting and excursion goods, particularly noted for its expensive shotguns, fishing rods, and tents.”
    I don’t think making drawstring pants for social convenience when picking up girls would have qualified.

  2. Thanks PEngelinNYC! That’s interesting re: A&F’s history. I wasn’t aware of that. I’ve only been aware of the brand in its current state and the negative publicity it has attracted over the years.