Loss of Trust in Branding

On August 16th Abercrombie and Fitch asked Jersey Shore cast members not to wear their brand. Pretty rich coming from the company who was making pushup bikini tops for children.  Still,it was definitely a very clever marketing idea involving two tacky enterprises. Abercrombie certainly were all over the media right before all the kids who wear their overpriced and boring clothes went back to school. Clever indeed.

In my own tacky marketing move, here’s a gratuitous and totally irrelevant shot of hottie Raveonettes singer Sune Rose Wagner, doing nothing at all related to this industry or this post. He’s just maddeningly handsome. I think it’s quite obvious that he’s sadly toasting not being married to me right now. Poor man.

Sune Rose Wagner

At first this did look like a smart attempt to prevent brand corruption. While I happily confess to never having watched that show, I am bombarded by images of Snooki with her big hair and tiny outfits and The Situation’s abs (less hair but still unnerving) every time I read my (FREE…I swear on my grandma’s grave that I did not subscribe!!) copy of the heinous rag Star Magazine. You can’t go to Harris Teeter and buy the usual box of wine and a can of Pringles without seeing these guys whilst trying to figure out why your shit won’t scan whilst (again yes sorry, I like the word) the cashier stands there judging and not coming over to help you. Yeah, I know the damn Uscan is open people, but it never works for me so that is why I’m in THE LINE FOR AN ACTUAL PERSON. Anyway, initially I thought of how Tommy Hilfiger became a joke in the States as it went from classic American sportswear to something a bit more…urban. 10 years ago, who’d have imagined that Tommy would hit Axl Rose? Brand corruption did it, I am telling you. I won’t even get into the Burberry-chavs thing in the UK because it is still a source of agony for me, owning Burberry and traveling to the UK where I am unable to display the goods (the bag I mean) without someone asking me where I’m from in Essex. I don’t even have a fake tan so not sure why they make that assumption.

Brand corruption is obviously not what this Abercrombie stunt was about though, but initially I did think “wow, they are doing the right thing here, even if it’s just plain obnoxious” but after a bit, I realized that it’s just another way to generate buzz. It’s linkbait. I used to like things like this and appreciate them for their cleverness, but now? Not so much. Yes, they got loads of attention, but what did it actually bring them? Did more people buy their clothes? Did anyone forget they once offered padded bikini tops to kids? Press of any sort can be a good thing but will their historical bouts of nuttiness simply lead to their own brand corruption? Other lower-priced retailers already sell Abercrombie-clone items anyway (with the exception of the aforementioned padded bikinis for kids.) If your polo shirts are $12 you can probably get away with pissing people off or just irritating them, but if they’re $68? Jaysis. You need to be making a name for yourself by giving a free $68 polo shirt to kids in need every time some frat boy buys one.

Speaking of good ideas like that, here’s another one…a photo of Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand, who is not guilty of anything to do with brand corruption, polo shirts, or bouffants! He is only guilty of being insanely good looking and fronting a truly amazing band. People reading blogs like to see images it seems, and he’s prettier than Snooki.

Alex Kapranos

See how my ridiculous interjection of shots of men I like kind of take away from my message? Hey, at least I’m not selling a polo for $68. Tacky seems to be the new thing though, so I’ll roll with it.

Is this like the boy who cried wolf? Is it like Lyndon Antcliff’s divisive hooker story that brought out issues of trust and industry ethics? (for the record I thought that story was highly entertaining and honestly, anyone believing it should stop sniffing glue every morning) Not to pick on Lyndon at all here, but if you had the idea that he was indeed an untrustworthy shyster and he wrote something that was on the edge of believability again, would you trust him? I would, of course, as I actually understand satire and don’t think the Irish are really actually being told to eat babies. However, if Abercrombie does come out and say that they’re donating $10m to help clean up Vermont after Hurricane Irene, will it make you drive to the mall, risking being shot (or is that just here in Greensboro?), to go buy a $68 polo and hopefully see some nude models? Or will you just sit back and wait for the punchline? I’ll sit back and wait.

Coming back from PR hijinks can of course be done. Alec Baldwin has a successful show after that phone call. My lovely husband still gets us business after his performance in Seattle. However, it takes a lot of work and honestly, after dealing with fallout, why bother in the first place? Broken trust is very hard to rebuild. It’s difficult to trust a person who has betrayed you. It’s hard to try another BK veggie burger after you’ve bitten into one containing an ink pen. Hey, at least it wasn’t a tooth I suppose…

Lastly, let me leave you with this image, as it would be quite rude of me not to showcase Udo Kier. QUITE RUDE.

Udo Kier

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4 Responses to “Loss of Trust in Branding”

  1. Although I am culturally aware who Snooki is, I wouldn’t know her if you put her in front of me. That’s not to say that my TV choice’s are better than yours. Its that I don’t have a TV. I think that’s a win for me on two counts.

    The Abercrombie thing had to be for the buzz. It just seems to ridiculous for it to be otherwise… Now if it had been Netflix I could write it off to utter stupidity.

    As for Tommy Hilfiger, who’s clothes have never appealed to me in the slightest, he is best summed up by this quote from William Gibson: “There must be some Tommy Hilfiger event horizon, beyond which it is impossible to be more derivative, more removed from the source, more devoid of soul.”

    So where’s the picture of Bryan Ferry?

  2. Julie Joyce says:

    I am trying to keep it fresh Gene. Bryan and I are too old-fashioned.

    Poor Netflix/Quikster. I must say I enjoy the streaming…and really, it’s a total #whitepeoplesproblem like when the people behind me on the plane back from SMX were bemoaning the astronomical fraternity dues. Mon Dieu.

    I do wonder if it’s for the buzz…and what does that say about society as a whole, that you have to shock to be noticed? (says the girl who had pink hair and still wears skull shirts)

  3. Today is my research/education day and I completely enjoyed this post. A chuckle and something to ponder. Glad Debra (linkspiel) had you on her blogroll. Great finds today!

  4. Ciaran says:

    Nice post. Thought I ought to stick up for Burberry though – they did have a massive problem with the wrong sort of people (in their eyes) buying their products back at the start of the noughties, but in fact, since Christopher Bailey came on board, they’ve pulled off one of the best brand rejuvenations of recent years.

    They can’t turn around without doing something right these days, and I’ll direct you towards Art Of The Trench (http://artofthetrench.com/) for an idea of what I’m talking about (that, and the figures showing revenues climbing northwards pretty much consistently for the last few years)

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