Thursday, September 20

Abercrombie & Fitch

When it comes to marketing, can good fortune last forever?

I've long been a big fan of Abercrombie & Fitch, and at one time a consumer as well.  I wrote about it quite a bit in my first book, mostly because I think it's a great example of effective targeting.  Actually a great example of a perfect intersection of demographic and psychographic targeting.

The brand very overtly targets a "fit collegiate lifestyle," hence the lack of clothing on the young adult models.  For years it worked, whether you were actually fit or in college, you wanted to fit into those clothes.  I have a closet full of 'em to be honest.  But then when I hit a certain (ahem) age, the brand didn't work for me anymore ... or should I say that peer pressure made me walk away from the brand because I was way too out of the collegiate lifestyle range.  That's ok, I accepted it and moved on.  The "urban legend" was that no one over 35 is allowed to wear Abercrombie & Fitch.

Definitive targeting can be quite effective.  Your consumers relate to you and can become quite loyal.  What this can mean though is that new consumers are constantly cycling in and cycling out.  So you have to make sure that as a brand you are really keeping up with the changing flow.  Abercrombie & Fitch is one example, but there are many brands that face this challenge.  Johnson's Baby Products comes to mind as it has a new crop of new moms every year to try to attract.

Abercrombie & Fitch didn't keep up, or so it seems.  The newest generation of "fit collegiate lifestyle" folks aren't embracing the brand.  They don't relate to the shirtless models or the high prices.  And they are rejecting the overt branding and big logos, which many perceive as "free advertising" for the brand.  As a result, the once red-hot brand is declining, rapidly.

What's the lesson here?  It's not that you shouldn't be as specific as possible with your targeting, and it's not about being wrong with a combined demographic/psychographic profile.  It's about the need to constantly evolve with changing attitudes and behaviors, especially when you have an audience in constant flux.  Even if you've got a good gig going, it won't last for ever so you better be ready to evolve.

Indeed.  What's your experience?  Jim.

Jim Joseph
President, Cohn & Wolfe NA
Author, The Experience Effect series
Professor, NYU

PS - Join us Sunday, 9/23/12 at 6:30EST for #EmmyExp - live tweets about the marketing during The Emmy Awards!

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