Is Abercrombie & Fitch’s Bribe Just A Publicity Stunt?

Today, Abercrombie & Fitch offered to pay “Situation” from the popular reality series Jersey Shore, NOT to wear its brand (to get the back story on this, you can read one of hundreds of stories and posts here).

A&F claims that the association with the star of the reality show is “contrary to the aspirational nature of their brand”.  This is particularly ironic as A&F is not exactly a brand as innocent as Disney.  In 2002, A&F had to pull a line of thongs from its shelves that aimed at girls age 10 and under. Then a year later in 2003, they had to pull its Christmas catalog after receiving boycott threats from a parents’ group because the catalog featured nude models.

Regardless, as of today, A&F does not believe being associated with Jersey Shore is where they want their brand to be.

We give kudos to A&F for trying to control its brand but let’s face it, as far as brands go, we know that no matter how hard a corporate marketing team carefully crafts and executes their brand strategy, the brand will ultimately be determined by what consumers believe the brand is.

For many brands, getting your brand into pop culture is the holy grail.  It can be great for sales, name recognition and real estate on the shelves. But there is definitely brand risk to consider.

Let’s take a quick look at pop music and in particular, rap.

Back in 2006, there was a public fight between rapper Jay-Z and Cristal champagne after Jay-Z featured the champagne brand in a song and in his clubs – (click here for a story about that).  While Cristal was upset that their premium brand would be tarnished by its association with rap, it quickly became part of the vernacular of an untapped market.  So, did Cristal suffer because of Jay-Z unpaid and unauthorized endorsement?

And back to A&F, what is worse for them?  Being tied to ‘Situation’ and one of the most popular shows on TV or public outrage for marketing thongs to 10 year olds?  Personally, I think that this is all a publicity stunt to get the A&F name in the news.  In Chicago tonight, the story was featured on the 10pm news.


Let us know your thoughts about the relationship between brands and pop culture.


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