There was a great deal of outrage recently concerning the comments of Abercrombie & Fitch chief executive Mike Jeffries, who said he “only wanted thin and beautiful people” wearing his clothing. He continued his provocative stance stating, “Are we exclusionary? Absolutely…”
The reaction of the media, bloggers and the general public alike was immediate, and Jeffries was met with indignation. One individual, however, took it one step further – Greg Karber, a Californian writer, has produced a YouTube video and a corresponding campaign that encourages individuals to find or give away any Abercrombie & Fitch clothing they own to the homeless. He also asks people to shout about it on Twitter with the hashtag #FitchTheHomeless.
Mark Ritson of Marketing Week notes that what’s so great about Karber’s effort is how it truly undermines Jeffries’ stance; it is, in effect, anti-marketing. The homeless people of the world are far from Jeffries’ idealized image of perfect, well groomed teenagers. Although his video also raises the question of objectifying the homeless, Karber’s defiance against Jeffries and, in turn, the A&F brand, is both brilliant and amusing.
What is notable here, however, isn’t only the message, but the act itself. People, or rather consumers, are taking it upon themselves to campaign against brands. Of course, this is not completely new; activists have been fighting against oil companies, or fur advocates, as examples, for years. But Abercrombie & Fitch is not a brand that is threatening the state of our planet or animal rights (depending on your point of view, of course); it is simply a brand that is championing a certain look and trying to exclude a certain group of people. What stands out with the A&F example is that consumers are increasingly finding their voice. People are no longer willing to be dictated to by brands.
Everyone has a voice and an opinion, and it’s time for brands to take note. Consumers might not always know exactly what they want, but they can certainly appraise ideas, or tell you what they definitely do not want. Without the support of consumers, your brand can only fail. With so many more people speaking out, and more outlets than ever on which to do so, falling out of favor has never been more damaging.