A new marketing image from the brand. Photo: Abercrombie & Fitch.
The words Abercrombie & Fitch have become synonymous with rock hard abs, suffocatingly strong cologne, and music so loud it leaves your eardrums ringing. It’s a marketing strategy that hasn’t evolved since the oldest millennials were in junior high—until now.
On the heels of long-time CEO Mike Jeffries’ departure, the brand’s released a statement promising that its stores, including Hollister, will “focus on providing an easy and enjoyable in-store experience… making it more convenient, friendlier and easier to shop.” Abercrombie’s new president, Fran Horowitz, is steering the brand in an entirely new direction that will let parents leave their earplugs and inhalers at home.
The most drastic change however, will be the turn away from “sexualized marketing.” Washboard abs are basically Abercrombie’s logo, from the gift cards to the shopping bags, to the ripped jocks who greet you at the door. Not to mention the Bruce Weber-lensed catalogs, dubbed A&F Quarterly, that courted controversy—and porn comparisons—during their run from 1997 to 2003. Now there’s only one place you’ll see half-naked men: on the packaging of the brand’s “Fierce” cologne, because it’s "consistent with the fragrance industry."
Instead, the new Abercrombie & Fitch, Abercrombie, and Hollister ads bare an uncanny, G-rated resemblance to mall brands like Aeropostale, PacSun and American Eagle—think guys in cuffed jeans and graphic tees, wearing beanies and sneakers; girls in denim cutoffs (not too-short, though), crew necks, and paisley prints.
Courtesy of Hollister. A new marketing image from the brand.
Here are some of the other changes you can expect:
- Store associates will “not be hired based on body type or physical attractiveness.” (Which officially confirms they once were.)
- There will be a new “open-minded” dress code to encourage and allow “associates to be more individualistic.” (Even though It still “requires your appearance to be neat, clean, natural and well-groomed.)
- Employee titles will change from “Model” to “Brand Representative”
- So long to sensory overload! Both brands will adjust scent, lighting, music and trees to “ensure a more pleasurable shopping experience.”
Kudos to the brand for moving toward a more inclusive business model. But the truth is that the late ‘90s Abercrombie—along with the abs, graphic tees, and dangerously low-slung jeans it offered—will always hold a dear place in our hearts.