Case study analysis
CASE METHOD EXERCISE: ABERCROMBIE & FITCH
(by Meg Connolly, in Marketing Ethics: Cases and Readings (2006), edited by Patrick E. Murphy and Gene R. Laczniak)
Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) of today differs dramatically from the original waterfront shop in New York that carried high-quality clothing suitable for camping, fishing and hunting. The A&F of 2002 can be found in virtually any major mall in America, and its target market includes preteen and teenagers. Indeed, the shift has been rather dramatic, and it could certainly be asserted that the direction A&F has recently headed strays substantially from the original vision of its founders.
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” Despite the fact that there was never any mention of pairing drinking with driving, A&F responded by placing a ban on any magazine material that could be viewed as encouraging underage drinking. It is interesting that the Quarterly even decided to write an article regarding drinking since the main target market is under the legal drinking age.
After this interchange with government officials and some angry mothers, A&F decided to switch gears and focus instead on sex as the theme of their quarterly publication. In addition to the magazine features discussed, interviews with porn stars as well as other actors who are dubious role models for pre-teens and teenagers were included. In a particular interview, on male porn star brags about his nearly 1,700 porn films and offers advice to those interested in entering his field. Furthermore, sex advice columns and other racy feature articles are sometimes part of the Quarterly.
The Christmas 1999 issue titled “Naughty or Nice” included images of a sado-masochistic Santa and elves all clad in leather and posing in questionable positions. This issue led Illinois Lieutenant Governor Corinne Wooed to call for a boycott of A& F. The boycott has gained nationwide support and is spearheaded by the American Decency Association (ADA). As a result of the actions taken by Lieutenant Governor Wood, A&F now packages its magazine in opaque shrink wrap, and there is a “You Must Be 18 years of Age” sticker affixed to the cover. It retails for $6.00 an issue and can be received either by subscription or at an A&F retail outlet. While A&F took action to make sure that minors are not able to directly access the magazine, Wood is not satisfied.
Wood and others strongly believe that the clothing retailer is peddling soft porn in the form of a clothing catalogue, which is completely inappropriate for the market that typically purchases the merchandise. She claims that “A&F is glamorizing indiscriminate sexual behaviour the unsophisticated teenagers are not possibly equipped to weigh against the dangers of date rape, unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.” The publication displays page and page of partially nude young people, oftentimes in sexually explicit positions.
Others in favour of the boycott warn that A&F is manipulating young people into thinking that it is okay to take part in the behaviours that are depicted and written about and the in fact it will make one “cool.” Adolescents at the preteen and teen levels are impressionable, and it is the fear of many of these outraged parents that their children will start to adopt these behaviours that are inappropriate for such a young age.
A&F does not appear to be overly concerned with the complaints; in fact, recent issues have had an increased amount of nudity, and the spring issue that had been rated “XXX.”
At the heart of the debate lies the question, “Have the sales of A&F seen an increase since the racy publication stared...