Brands pay celebrities all the time to sport their gear. Yet, clothing line Abercrombie & Fitch is taking a different approach. Instead of sponsoring a celebrity, they’re offering to pay the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore to not wear their clothes.
According to A&F, the appearance of their label on the Guido and Guidettes of the Shore is “contrary to the aspirational nature of the brand.” I suppose reality stars puking in the streets while wearing an A&F shirt is not exactly what the brand wants people to “aspire” to become. (Then again, they are making a boatload of cash for being, well, talented at getting drunk.)
Yet, the request is a bit confusing. A&F isn’t exactly known for their aspirational advertising. The clothing line is wrought with its fair share of Shore-esque branding signals, including shirtless greeters welcoming customers into its club-like stores. And, as Shore cast member Paul “DJ Pauly D” Delvecchio pointed-out in a recent tweet, A&F has taken advantage of the Shore hype. “Hmmm if They Don’t Want Us To Wear Those Clothes Why Make GTL Shirts,” asks Delvecchio.
It’s a good question, and has a few people asking if A&F isn’t just building a PR stunt around the request. "With respect to The Situation, Abercrombie & Fitch saw an opportunity to get some advantageous publicity during the all-important back-to-school season," BMO Capital Markets Senior Retail Analyst John Morris told the Chicago Tribune. "It's definitely a good water-cooler conversation."
Stunt or not, it serves as a good lesson about the importance (and, consequences) of your brand narrative.
You have a product. That product has a brand image. That brand image is created through branding signals. And, your branding signals tell a story to consumers. If your brand narrative is one of youthful bacchanalia — as is A&F’s — don’t be surprised if your brand starts showing up in places where said bacchanalia occurs.
Pervasive brands have a tendency to get co-opted by consumers. Therefore, it’s important that your branding signals weave a narrative that ensures the brand is reaching the right audience.