Imc Abercrombie And Fitch


Imc Abercrombie And Fitch Essay, Research Paper

Integrated Marketing Communication and Web Analysis of Abercrombie & Fitch

February 27, 2000


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 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.


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 displacement?Weber’s pictures engage issues of power. The power to shock, provoke, seduce, titillate or arouse?”


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 store?It 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. Abercrombie use of sexually overt material with athletic, privileged-looking, semi-clad co-eds is used in every aspect of its marketing communication strategy. Because of the consistency of Abercrombie’s communication messages, Abercrombie’s advisements and promotions are easily identified. Furthermore, the opposition to Abercrombie’s communications strategy and associated materials has actually enhanced the effectiveness of Abercrombie’s marketing communications. Abercrombie has come to be seen as more exclusive and cool because of the rebellion and controversy.

Despite Abercrombie’s well-integrated and highly publicized marketing campaign, Abercrombie may reconsider the magazines in which it advertises. For example, the average age of a Vanity Fair reader is 37, while the target market for Abercrombie clothes is 18-22 year olds.

Abercrombie has orchestrated a well-targeted, hard-hitting marketing mix for its audience. All of the elements have built up and support the brand equity and prestige. The magazine selection may not be the precise target audience, but does lend credence to the aspirational implications of the brand. The lack of abundant promotions indicates that Abercrombie merchandise is purchased more for nonprice attributes and benefits.


The web site of Abercrombie consists of six sections: Abercrombie Lifestyle, Insider, Mail Call, ANFMail, Site Map, and Shop Online. The majority of the information on the site is focused on entertainment and image rather than on shopping or sales directly. Lifestyle provides users with MP3 downloads of new music, electronic post cards, screen savers, and links to other sites with extreme sports and film information. Customers can get email accounts through ANFMail or watch quick time movies on AbercrombieTV. Additional information on the site includes job opportunities, store locations, FAQ, credit card applications, and feedback opportunities through email. Finally, customers can shop online and use the mix and match capabilities to assemble outfits. Customers are also able to input profile information in a secure online database.

The imagery and mood of the site is consistent with that of Abercrombie’s physical locations and other marketing communications tools. The company website offers downloadable, toned-down images similar to those found in the free catalogue. The site is fairly easy to navigate and, depending on the age and sex of the customer, has some rather attractive images to peruse. Images load quickly and there is plenty of white space to avoid confusion. The content is well organized and interesting, considering the target group. The customer does not need to click too many times to access information. Shopping online is easy to complete and the customer is not forced to become a member, but can instead always sign in as a guest. Products are easy to find by searching via product number or type of clothing and sex.

To compete with its competitors such as The Gap and J. Crew online, Abercrombie & Fitch must increase the focus on shopping on its site. A key method to accomplish this goal would be through cross-promotion. For example, J. Crew provides its catalog and brick and mortar customers with incentives, such as free hats, to try the web for online ordering. The Gap assists customers in purchasing items in its physical locations online if they are out of stock at the store. Both J. Crew and The Gap have actively cross-promoted between their Internet and their physical presences. It is important for Abercrombie to recognize that in combination with its current strategy, it must use their website to build their base of customers ordering online.

At present, Abercrombie is providing its target group with a wealth of interesting information that will drive them to the site and increase the brand recognition of the company. It has established links with various music companies and extreme sport retailers. All of the content is effectively targeted towards both males and females. Its concepts are fresh and innovative, and continue its brick and mortar look of attractive young people who are obviously active.

While Abercrombie’s website is easy to navigate and fits well with its integrated marketing communications plan, the company is not taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded by an Internet presence. Unfortunately, evidence of cross-promotion is lacking. However, the site does provide users with information, which makes the tasks of the company sales representatives easier. Additionally, the site is reinforcing the Abercrombie & Fitch brand once again with its distinctive photographic images and hip content.


Abercrombie & Fitch is well positioned for the future, however it is necessary for them to continue to move forward in their efforts to maintain a new, trendy image. In the face of controversy, Abercrombie’s advertising stands out to an audience that has been exposed to a lot of noisy ads. The extreme nature of “shockvertising” is what gets Abercrombie noticed and the constant image of their integrated marketing communications lifts the Abercrombie brand above the clutter.

In short, Abercrombie completed 97.4% of their 1999 sales in their brick and mortar locations. They should jump on opportunities for increased e-retailing. In this period of rapid electronic retailing expansion, Abercrombie & Fitch must realize the synergies with their catalogs in order to compete in the long term. Abercrombie could take advantage of their current catalog business and expand their customer base with increased presence at prestigious college events. Print advertisement placement could also be reconsidered so that ads are better positioned at the target.





? Abercrombie & Fitch, Co. 1999 10-K

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? Del Franco, Mark, “Applying Peer Pressure,” Catalog Age, August 1999.

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? Tode, Chantal, “Evolution of tweens’ tastes keeps retailers on their toes; Group has affinity for catalogs, Web,” Advertising Age, February 12, 2001.

? Warner, Bernhard, “Mail-Order Renaissance”, The Industry Standard, October 07, 1999.

? Warner, Bernhard, “Levi’s Internet Blues Keep Keepin’ On”, The Industry Standard, November 08, 1999.

? Williams, Mark, “Catalog controversy; Company gets a lift from uproar over drinking, analysts say,” Marketing News TM, September 14, 1998.

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