Imc Abercrombie And Fitch Integrated Marketing Communication and Web Analysis of Abercrombie & Fitch February 27, 2000 COMPANY BACKGROUND Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (Abercrombie) is a specialty retailer of casual clothing and accessories for men, women, and children. With 250 stores in the United States, the company sold $1.04 billion in merchandise in 1999, with net income of $149.6 million. The online and catalog business of the company contributed 2.6% to sales in 1999 and 1.8% in 1998. From its foundations as an outdoor apparel supplier, Abercrombie has been transformed into a source for upscale casual clothing for a youthful and fashion-conscious market.
Abercrombie maintains this brand image with high quality promotional materials focused on partially clad teens and hot trends. RETAIL APPAREL INDUSTRY Retail apparel is a highly competitive business in the United States, with numerous outlets for purchase, rapidly changing fashions, and an increasingly demanding customer. At present, the bulk of clothing is sold at retail outlets located in malls or at department stores. However, with the advent of Internet technology and e-retailing, many companies are realizing the synergies that exist when selling through catalogs and on the Internet. Availability and selection are key to the success of any retailer. Retailers try to build repeat customers, and a single unsuccessful purchase may be a lost customer for life. Some of Abercrombie’s primary competitors are Gap Inc.
(The Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy) and J. Crew. BRAND POSITIONING Due to the nature of the retailing business, Abercrombie & Fitch must constantly focus on the customers needs with high levels of service in order to create and retain a competitive advantage. Ultimately, brand image, service, and quality are the winning criteria for Abercrombie & Fitch. Their competitive advantage stems from their ability to communicate these qualities to their customers better than their competitors, while maintaining high profit margins.
Abercrombie & Fitch positions itself as ‘The Gap for Generation Y with its flagship stores. The company claims 18 to 22 year olds as its target market, but its marketing appears to be aimed at all teens in general. The claim of a college-aged target market is likely designed to counteract backlash from its erotic shockvertising. Abercrombie recently introduced toned-down abercrombie stores with a target market of 7 to 14 year olds. Abercrombie’s positioning strategy involves the use of sexually overt advertising positioned to appeal to both the homosexual and heterosexual markets.
This form of advertising, referred to as shockvertising, has been very successful in positioning the Abercrombie brand and captivating its target market. Throughout every aspect of its communication strategy, Abercrombie uses provocative photos, created by Bruce Weber, of athletic, privileged-looking and semi-clad co-eds. These images often depict nudity, alcohol consumption and assorted sexual behaviors. As described in the New York Times Magazine, these photos are engaging in voyeurism, homoeroticism, desire, frustration, sublimation and displacementWeber’s pictures engage issues of power. The power to shock, provoke, seduce, titillate or arouse INTEGRATED MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS PLAN Personal Selling: Abercrombie & Fitch salespeople are recruited largely from college campuses, in particular popular fraternities and sororities. The goal is to not only have attractive teens promoting the image in the stores, but also on the street.
Additionally, Abercrombie hires young, hip people to work at its call centers. The company is trying to reach its target by communicating to them through their peers at an aspirational level. Advertising: Abercrombie & Fitch does not have a mass market approach to its advertising. It places print ads in 4 magazines: Vanity Fair, Interview, Out, and Rolling Stone. Additionally, the company places limited billboard ads and is working to create an online community with its website.
Finally, Abercrombie issues two catalog publications. The A&F Quarterly is a subscription catalog, with an annual fee of $12. Approximately 350,000 Americans subscribe to the publication that contains explicit photos, articles, and apparel. Subscribers and in-store purchasers must be over 18 years old; identification is required for purchase. A substantially scaled down version with a similar look is sent to roughly 1.5 million members of the Abercrombie mailing list free of charge. Publicity: Abercrombie has received both positive and negative publicity as a result of its advertising campaigns.
Abercrombie’s positive publicity is mainly due to the positive reactions of 18-22 year-olds. For these individuals, the controversy surrounding its advertising campaigns has added to the allure and exclusivity of the brand and resulted in 34 consecutive quarters of record sales and earnings. Alternatively, Abercrombie’s negative publicity is attributable to parents, legislators and consumer advocates. Such individuals feel that the Abercrombie’s depiction of the American college experience is not seen as responsible by a growing number of parents and lawmakers, especially because the company’s messages are reaching children under 18. Moreover, Corinne Wood, Illinois Lieutenant Governor, wrote a letter to the Chicago Sun Times praising their editorial asking for a boycott of Abercrombie, As a mother of young teens and a pre-teen, I am highly offended by Abercrombie & Fitch’s attempts to target young kids with images of sexuality that are simply not appropriate for an American clothing storeIt is time for concerned and responsible parents to take a stand and boycott companies that engage in such irresponsible marketing behavior. Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm called the Abercrombie & Fitch catalog Playboy for Kids in a December 1999 USA Today article while the Chicago City Council voted 49-0 for a resolution to boycott the company that same month. Point-of-Purchase: Abercrombie & Fitch stores maintain a fraternity-like atmosphere with wood-trimmed walls and loud music pumped through the stores at a level mandated by corporate regulations. This atmosphere is designed to make teens feel more comfortable while shopping and discourages extensive conversation.
Additionally, the company places large photographs consistent with its catalog and advertising image throughout the stores and on its shopping bags. Sales Promotion: Abercrombie focuses on rapid turnover and marks down apparel to keep the store fresh and current with fashion trends. Spring and Fall are Abercrombie’s two most important selling seasons. Fall is by far the primary season with the back-to-school rush and stores are continuously flooded with inventory through the holiday season . There is little promotion outside that which is done at the point of purchase to encourage turnover of lingering inventory. Promotional discounts are not consistent with their aspirational image of privileged lifestyles.
We are a full-price brand. We are not a promotional business, states Abercrombie COO Seth Johnson . Sponsorship: There is no evidence that Abercrombie is significantly involved in sponsorship of any event or cause. Perhaps if they were to get involved in sponsorship marketing, efforts would best be focused on fashionable college events such as sponsoring a regatta or extreme sports event. Again, taking into consideration the brand image, it would be difficult to identify a cause with which to tie the Abercrombie name. Marketing Mix Critique: Abercrombie’s marketing mix is heavily integrated and to date, has been extremely effective. Abe …