Abercrombie…Managing a CEO’s Mouth

When the CEO of a popular and highly profitable clothing company that markets heavily to young people is asked in an interview “how important sex and sexual attraction are in what he calls the “emotional experience” he creates for his customers” and he responds by saying…

“It’s almost everything. That’s why we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.””

Even though that interview was given over 7 years ago, it created a media crisis the likes of which no company ever wants to endure.

A&F-Protest-1

After massive protests, an assault of Twitter hashtags and Youtube videos, celebrities like Kirsty Alley brutally calling out the company and CEO on national television, CEO Mike Jeffries issues the most benign, “non-apology” apology about “mis-interpreted” comments and how much A&F truly does care.  This only served to fanned the flames further.

A&F-Protest-4

A&F-Protest-3

AS CRISIS MANAGER:

  • As news of this resurrected article hit the media, I would have had the CEO immediately make a heartfelt and sincere YouTube video that not only apologized but took full responsibility for the inappropriateness and insensitivity for the comments.
  • I would have posted an acknowledgement of the comments and an apology on the A&F Twitter account with a team responding to the questions and comments as respectfully and calmly as possible.
  • I would have advised the CEO to consider making A&F clothing in larger sizes and promote that fact in a campaign that acknowledges that the company previously made mistakes but values its customers and young people enough to know they come in all shapes and sizes.
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