It could be argued that digital marketing should not be about trying to please everyone. In fact, one of most important facets of marketing is to determine your target audience. However, does this mean you need to be ‘exclusionary’? Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, certainly thinks so. He came under fire for his 2006 comments which suggested that A&F did not want ‘fat’ people in it clothes. The company’s sizing policy, maximum of women size 10 and men size 34, certainly proves that there is an element of exclusion. Is this a terrible mistake or a brilliant marketing strategy?
Digital marketing experts believe that strong brands act as filters and don’t try to please everyone. The best brands stand for something specific and while this includes targeting certain people, it also involves excluding others. Establishing a target market is essential as it guarantees more efficient spending and enables the brand to create a strong campaign that really speaks to this specific audience. By trying to market to everyone, you are in danger of sending out a diluted message and this will only see you disappear amidst the throng of rival companies.
Therefore, it would appear as if A&F’s strategy is a successful one, especially as they are enjoying stellar sales. Nonetheless, it can still be seen as an error as customers need to feel that they are given a choice to exclude themselves. For example, a company may price an item of clothing at $5,000 to exclude all but the wealthy elite but the trick is to make the customer feel as if he is choosing not to pay the price. Otherwise, you will gain the reputation of a snob and this will hurt public perception of your brand.
The best digital marketing technique in this instance is filtering in a mutually beneficial manner. You need to make it seem as if you are the right brand for the right person to ensure the customer always feels as if he is in control of the decision making process. A&F’s strategy of excluding people by telling them they are ‘too fat’ is the exact opposite of this!
Yet A&F will rightly claim that their target audience is obsessed with the idea of being in a ‘cool clique’ and will not complain about the strategy. As a consequence, perhaps A&F have got their marketing campaign right after all. However, unless your business involves pandering to the shallowness of others, it is unlikely a similar approach will bear fruit.