In a brilliant PR (err, News) move, the retailer, Abercrombie & Fitch has launched its first salvo against the use of its brand by the MTV’s Jersey Shore cast. They have effectively made the public offer to Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino that they will pay him to stop wearing their clothes. The fact that the brand’s target audience is exactly the audience that is a fan of the show and the network it airs on.
With that in mind, it could be considered to be a risky move at first, but it is actually perfect. They have handled it with an exquisite touch. The news release from Abercrombie on Tuesday used phrases like “deep concern” concern about the use of the brand by Sorrentino. Rather than reporting on discussions between the brand and the reality-star, they actually used the public release as the vehicle to make the offer of “substantial” compensation if he would just stop.
You can read a lot more of the detail on the Wall Street Journal’s website in an article by Elizabeth Holmes.
The reason why this strategy rings so true to me is in how it relates to everything that I found wrong when I wrote about WTForever21 back in June. Forever 21 could have solved their issue smartly if they actually thought in a way that would resonate with their users instead of being litigious or grossly adversarial. Obviously, there are strong differences between the Forever 21 issue and this Abercrombie “situation,” but the target audiences are absolutely similar. Abercrombie was just smarter about how they could “manage” adversity and “brand image concerns” to bring a positive return.
Not only did the Abercrombie CEO, Mike Jeffries, bring the topic up in his quarterly earnings conference call on Wednesday morning, he mentioned that “We’re having a lot of fun with it.” An MTV spokesperson even made the comment that “We’d love to work with them on other ways they can leverage Jersey Shore to reach the largest youth audience on television.” Both of these comments and all the buzz around the entire thing are the byproduct of being smart about the PR strategy, timing and messaging to make something that could be an issue into something that is generating positive attention and even opening the doors to further growth. It remains to be seen how Sorrentino will benefit other than the “substantial” compensation, but the whole thing certainly can’t hurt.
Ultimately, its a smile-inducing study on a proper resolution for a brand attempting to steer the direction when it is being led to a possibly undesirable position. Holmes references some other brands that have tried to do the same with varying tactics. What it all comes down to is knowing your actual audience and your intended audience so that whatever strategy you devise is able to positively engage the intended without damning any revenue streams. Whether it is entertainment, retail, service or any other business – Success is always about the story, the audience and the delivery.