“Abercrombie & Fitch aggressively positioned itself as a “life style” brand - a brand that embodies the values and appeal of a desirable way of living” (Abercrombie & Fitch, wikipedia, 2006).
A&F’s customers integrate all their experiences of observing, using, or consum¬ing a product with everything they hear and read about it. Information about A&F’s prod¬ucts comes from a variety of sources and cues, including advertising, publicity, sales personnel, and packaging. The sum of impressions created A&F’s brand image, a single—but often complex—mental image about both the product itself and the company that markets it. In order to appeal to consumers and create a unique brand image, A&F introduced sex-based ad approach. This approach popularized naked body images and nudism as the main concepts of A&F selling strategy. In general, this was a very effective marketing strategy which has helped A&F to appeal to emotions of consumers using unique mixture of clothes, fashion and sex. The sex-based ad approach had a great influence on the society as it was designed to add psychological value to the brand. This approach was introduced because frequently purchased products generally require heavy advertising support to remind consumers about the product.
Unfortunately, A & F sex-based ad approach prompted boycott around the country. The main problem was caused by the fact that the core of potential consumers includes teens, and sex-based approach is undesirable for this age group. Some critics suppose that ''There's no question that Abercrombie appeals to teen-agers because it's the whole forbidden fruit syndrome" (Khudairi, 1999). A&F represents a promise about a particular product, and sex image was a sort of quality certification. The sex-based approach heated negative publicity because it popularized A&F brand as a sexual one aiming to attract teenage audience by sex messages. Critics state that: "These images and messages are contrary to the best interest of American teens" (Parvas, 2003).
A&F managers explain that sexual messages and specific brand image enable customers to better organize their marketplace experience by helping them seek out and zero in on particular products. As noted earlier, the company exerts complete control over the content of its advertising and pays for message placement in the media. However, the media typically receive many more press releases and other public relations materials than they can use.
Negative brand image is explained by the fact that the message of sex ads is encoded, conveyed via the appropriate channels, and decoded by the customer-receiver differently.
The rationale of sex-based ad approach means that teens are motivated and persuaded to buy the products popularizing "forbidden fruits". Obviously, this approach does not take cultural and moral considerations into account. The advertising appeal is the communications approach that relates to the motives of the target audience. "Hodel said, then A&F will still have to face the outrage of Americans who have had enough of "companies that think sexploitation at a time of rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases is OK if it separates people from their money" (Schneeberge, 2003).
As a result of this strategy, A&F has lost its brand equity, which represents the added value that accrues to a product as a result of the company's prior investments in the marketing of the brand. This looses has had a great impact on A&F profitability because brand equity is thought of as an asset representing the value created by the relationship between the brand and customers over time.
To return positive image of the company and its brand, A&F should change its ad approach implementing new advertising campaign. It was a