Rebranding a Company’s Image
Sometimes social changes and media backlash cause a company to rethink its branding. How do businesses reinvent themselves while keeping their current customer base and attracting new? A subtle change may be the best bet for a brand that appeals to a loyal teen market, yet has to be drastic enough to make a splash and attract new customers.
Abercrombie and Fitch, once the home of scantily-clad, beautiful models and salespeople, is facing this issue in an environment of falling sales, an executive overhaul, and various lawsuits. As the New York Times discussed in an interesting article, all the marketing images that were so dominant for the Abercrombie brand have changed. From a PG-13 or R-rating marketing campaign that spread across decades to a new focus on a G-rated All-American appeal, Abercrombie must reinvent and reform itself. And still appeal to the loyal teen shoppers who liked all the beefcake on display in the stores. Many teen girls would stop by the stores for the thrill of flirting with a cute male store clerk. But, Abercrombie and Fitch needs to figure out how to get those teens to buy a shirt while there.
Because a new generation of shoppers now prefers more understated clothing to the large company logos featured on past Abercrombie and sister brand Hollister’s clothing, sales have slumped. And Abercrombie has listened. Their new designs no longer highlight their name, but instead are focused more on comfortable casual clothing teens and young adults want to wear.
Abercrombie fired its sometimes controversial CEO and created a new Office of the Chairman to oversee the company’s strategic direction. The company has appointed two new brand presidents and adopted an incentive program for managers that is tied to sales and customer service goals.
Lawsuits alleging discrimination in hiring practices, where only the pretty and handsome were hired as salespeople, is forcing change. Now, store employees will no longer be hired on body type or physical attractiveness and will be called “brand representatives” instead of “models.” Store employees will also need to look “neat, clean, natural and well-groomed,” to help “maintain an appropriate standard,” according to another NYT article.
Companies that are forced to reinvent their brand, especially one as well-known and distinctive as the Abercrombie and Fitch image, must use a combination of smart marketing and appealing product revision to move away from their prior branding. If Abercrombie and Fitch’s current website is any indication, the same good-looking youthful models are now wearing more clothing and wearing grungier clothing. But a series of public relations and social media articles have highlighted the company’s changes to let the public know that the brand is paying attention to what wasn’t working in the past. And by turning up the lights in the stores and hiring sales clerks who look more like the average population, yet keeping good looking and youthful models on display on ads and on the website, maybe the loyal shoppers won’t really notice the change.