Mis-Communicator of the Week: Abercrombie & Fitch

Walk down any street in any town in the UK and pretty soon you will see someone wearing clothing adorned with either the Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister logos. The American preppy brands sweatshirts and t-shirts made the transition to the UK and other overseas markets in the noughties.

Abercrombie & Fitch was the trendsetter selling a cool, all-American lifestyle that was underscored by plastering its brand name across all of its clothes. Hollister, also an Abercrombie brand, came later selling a southern California beach life to suburban America, the UK and the rest of the world.

Now though, after years of relentless growth and expansion, things have gone wrong for Abercrombie and sales are falling. It seems that teenagers – predominantly the target market for the brands – are preferring not to broadcast to the world where they (or their parents) bought their clothes. Instead the trend is for “fast fashion” – the kind to be found in Zara and H&M – where new fashions are taken from the catwalk to the store in weeks not years and stock is turned over quickly rather than the traditional turnover based on seasons.

Recognition from a brand that trends change and understanding that they need to change with them is a good thing. Even better if they are the ones setting the trend.

What isn’t so good is the way Abercrombie & Fitch announced this strategic change.

The company announcement read as follows:

“We are confident that the evolution of our assortment will drive further improvements going forward, in particular as we move past the headwind of adverse likes in our logo business as we work to strategically reduce that element in our assortment”. 

I have carefully re-read what I have written here and there are no typos. They really do say “adverse likes in our logo business”, when they mean people don’t like us anymore. In essence what this awful piece of corporate double-speak means is that Abercrombie & Fitch are scrapping the logos from their clothes.

A change of this kind should be an opportunity for a brand to re-connect with its customers and reiterate its brand values. For a company that is supposed to be young, relaxed and cool these words jar considerably with the brand identity and make you wonder what they are hiding. 

This announcement is actually a recognition from Abercrombie that they need to change to keep their customers happy but that is not what is communicated. For this reason Abercrombie & Fitch is my Mis-Communicator of the Week. 

Communicator of the Week is written by Ed Staite.

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