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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How to Burn Your Brand

In America we have a lovely tradition called democratic consumption. Warren Buffet can't get a better Coke than I can, Bill Gates can't get a better piece of salmon than I can and Carlos Slim can't read a better book than I can. What they can do is create an exclusive environment that I'm not allowed into so really the only thing that separates the social classes is the spaces we inhabit. Namely our cars, our offices and our houses. At least that is what we tell ourselves so that our well armed populace doesn't wreck the social order on a weekly basis.

Abercrombie and Fitch CEO, Mike Jefferies, broke our little social illusion of being one class by speaking out about clothing sizing. Now every brand is exclusionary to some degree. Democratic consumption is a myth and who you exclude is as important as who you include. If it's not size, it's price or image. There are some places where showing up with a Harley Davidson jacket will get you shunned and others where showing up without one will get you beaten.

Now I'm no CEO genius but there are plenty of plausible answers you can give about why you won't make larger size of clothing that won't get in the face of the public but will still be just as exclusionary. How about "We limit the sizes we carry in order to control inventory costs", or "We haven't expanded our sizing options because there hasn't been customer demand for larger sizes but we consider that option whenever we introduce a new line". Yes Abercrombie board, I am available for half of Jeffries' salary if you want to hire me. But stating that your aim is to exclude a certain customer base is well, unamerican and subject to backlash from the the masses that have been raised to believe that they cannot be excluded and are worthy of consuming the best of what life has to offer.

A few years ago I went out looking for a used car with a budget of $5,000. I of course dressed for success in a pair of ripped shorts and a T-shirt and since I knew some of my co-workers drove BMWs and they seem like pretty nice cars. I went to the BMW dealer. After telling my budget to the salesman I was roundly rebuffed as he explained that cheap used BMWs start at $12,000.  Now I know that BMW makes a pricey automobile and that about two thirds of the population could never drive one because of the cost alone. But because of the salesman's attitude, that experience cemented in me that BMW is the brand of insecure losers. I then went down to the KIA dealership and because the salesman had no illusions about the exclusivity of his product, he asked me questions about my income and credit and sold me a car that cost about three times as much as I initially wanted to spend.

So goes Abercrombie. No longer will I look at the wearers of Abercrombie & Fitch clothing and envy their weedy frames. Instead I will feel a small twinge of pity for a fellow traveler who has decided that they need to burnish their image with a brand name.

Tell me which brand you think jumped the shark from mark of quality to desperate plea for attention in the comments.

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Hey I appreciate you leaving your thoughts behind! Be well my friend.