Zirh Fragrances
and Abercrombie & Fitch
Announce Campaign Changes




French Connection United Kingdom raised controversy in September, 2003 with new FCUK Him and FCUK Her print ads. They pulled the campaign in October and changed labels to spell out the licensed brand name instead of FCUK conceding that its risqué selling shtick did not sit well - but only after Federated Department Stores pulled the fragrance and apparel branded with FCUK and magazines stopped running ads for the scents with the message in the ad above - "Scent to bed." A revised campaign will resume in the second quarter, says Zirh spokeswoman Stacy Gubinski. "We will still market with fun and irreverence. However, much of the controversial nature of the campaign will be toned down," she says. "The goal is to be able to successfully market the brand while...making it conceptually acceptable to retail partners and their customers." The hope is that the scents will be more acceptable to retailers and shoppers - especially teens, who don't like to feel manipulated. However, it seems that the corporation is still manipulating the media. As of 12/803, their web site is still promoting fcuk fragrance with the "Scent to bed, fcuk for him, fcuk for her" ad (See www.fcukfragrance.com/retail2002/flash.asp)

From the "conservative" haberdasher who promoted "binge drinking" last summer, they've added Strip Yahtzee, Dirty Scrabble and Naked Twister to their holiday catalogue directed to the pre-teen and teen market. Can you say "Abercrombie & Fitch". That's right. And, to top that off, they have been running a series of magazine ads directed to the teen market featuring nude young men and women. Menstuff joined the Dads & Daughter's campaign with others to stop the sexualization of young people in advertising. Well, something worked because changes are being made.

Abercrombie & Fitch, which reported a 13% dip in November comparable store sales vs. last year, has pulled the racy holiday edition of its quarterly catalog, which featured naked models and tips for oral sex.

Though Abercrombie says the catalogs were pulled to free up display space for a new product, the move also came after the organization of a boycott of the 347-store chain by the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. The boycott effort continues. "The bottom line is that even if Abercrombie & Fitch is no longer selling the quarterly in its stores, the company continues to push the wrong messages on teens," said coalition head Rick Schatz in a statement.

Abercrombie has thrived on such controversy in the past, but racy marketing is no longer driving sales. The chain is in a nearly three-year drought in positive same-store sales results.

"They need to examine the marketing themes," says Dawn Stoner, specialty-retailing analyst at Pacific Growth Equities, which downgraded Abercrombie after the release of November sales. "The poster of naked boys in the store, the soft porn feel to the magazine, maybe they have gone to the well too long. It's not new anymore."

Abercrombie spokesman Hampton Carney says the catalogs were slated to be in stores just six weeks vs. the normal eight weeks. He says space needed for a new fragrance, rather than consumer complaints, necessitated the removal of the catalogs.

"On thing has nothing to do with the other," he says. "Every inch is valuable real estate for us, especially at the holiday season."

"This customer group is full of very sharp young people," says Ann Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing. "They know more about marketing than Madison Avenue. What these two companies have done is, in a heavy-handed way, try to manipulate through the use of sex. Any kind of advertising plan that goes over the line is spotted and rejected in a minute."

Source: USA Today, 12/4/03, Theresa Howard 

So, the Abercrombie spin seems to say "We like how we promote to young people and we intend to keep doing it just as soon as we get this new fragrance off the ground." It remains interesting that the marketing plan was so chaotic that they didn't know they were going to introduce a new fragrance for Christmas until after all of that money was spent on producing the risqué catalogue. Seems to us they're spiking the Holiday Eggnog a little early this year. If you want a copy of the catalogue, they probably have a lot of them sitting around. Try to get one by contacting their spokesman Hampton Carney.

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