Inspired again by my friends on LinkedIn, there’s quite a hub-bub circulating about comments made in an interview with Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries. In the interview (given in 2006, but now re-surfaced), Jeffries flatly associates his company’s brand with the “good-looking & thin” rather than the “fat & ugly.” Articles like this one, or this one, clearly indicate a sampling of the response this interview is garnering Mr. Jeffries. One of the great things about journalists is their ability to capture the emotion and umbrage of those afflicted by unfairness…one of the lessor great things about journalists is their ability to inadvertently promote what they seek to diminish.
If you’re not familiar with the A&F store, picture Studio 54 for Ashton Kutcher wanna-be’s…the store is engineered to be Kryptonite for anyone with ear drums over the age of 30, but let us not think that is accidental. The chain is interchangeable with AeroPostale, Gap, and American Eagle with one basic difference – attitude. You see, Mr. Jeffries has made it clear that the cool kids are wearing his brand, obviously inferring that the uncool wear the brand of his competitors.
There is a predictable uproar in defense of the fat/ugly/uncool, but I’m not sure it’s going to have the desired impact. It’s a ridiculously offensive, arrogant, hypocritical (have you seen Mike Jeffries?), series of statements, on top of being bad business practice. Unless it isn’t. What if this is a ridiculously calculated marketing strategy by Jeffries and his fellow pinheads? Can’t you see it playing out in the boardroom? “We aren’t taking advantage of the huge idiocracy movement in America. What if, instead of making our brand MORE inclusive, we decided to refuse service to 90% of the consumer base?”
Think about the math – if 90% of us don’t fit the poster-image (have you seen the ads?) Jeffries comments would be the equivalent of corporate suicide. But – out of that 90%, half will still see themselves as part of the “beautiful people” & will certainly want to announce this distinction with their choice of clothing. It certainly doesn’t seem to have curbed lycra sales, yeesh.
[In related news, A&F stock is up over 8% since the article was “leaked.”]
Jeffries may be a snake, but he may just be a really clever snake.