Last week, Abercrombie & Fitch wiped its Instagram account clean.

It wasn’t the result of a social media fail, but rather, the unveiling of a long-awaited rebrand.

Abercrombie & Fitch has also relaunched its website, advertising approach and overall image, just in time for its Christmas campaign.

Here’s a closer look at how (and why) the US retailer has done it.

A new era

On the back of falling sales and dwindling share price, last year Abercrombie & Fitch appointed a new vice president of design and creative director.

It had been suffering from the stiff competition of ‘fast-fashion’ retailers like Urban Outfitters, Zara and H&M, but even more so, the brand had been rapidly falling out of favour with youngsters.

Why?

As well as having a reputation for sexualised advertising, Abercrombie & Fitch has previously been criticised for being elitist. 

Former CEO, Mike Jeffries, was even quoted in a 2006 interview saying that the brand brazenly targets a certain type of consumer.

In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids.

Looking at the old website (see below image), it’s not difficult to see why the brand might have put off many young consumers. 

With other retailers like H&M celebrating diversity in their advertising, Abercrombie & Fitch’s ‘all-American’ image was doing more to alienate rather than engage.

An inclusive approach

Now, Abercrombie & Fitch is taking an entirely different tack.

Speaking about the rebrand, Fran Horowitz, the company’s CMO recently said: “Rather than buying clothes that symbolize membership in an exclusive group, today’s consumer celebrates individuality and uniqueness.”

Everything about the new website reflects this new all-inclusive approach.

Using words like ‘evolving’, ‘reinventing’ and ‘welcoming’ – the brand is reassuring both old and new consumers that change is a positive thing.

Likewise, there are more hints towards the brand’s heritage and established history, as well as the quality and premium nature of the product.

Instead of high-fashion style editorials, the imagery is much more laid back. 

Gone are the moody shirtless models, and in their place are happy, smiling and laughing friends (wrapped up nice and warm for Christmas).

Rebooting on social media

In order to underline the new brand image, Abercrombie & Fitch decided to start its social media channels from scratch.

Since doing so, it has slowly populated its Instagram and Twitter accounts with snapshots from its latest campaign, using the hashtag #thisisabercrombie to highlight the change.

The question is – will consumers be happy to embrace it?

By removing the negatives, it is definitely easier for the brand to move forward, however it does not mean its past reputation will instantly be erased.

What’s more, the decision to start again on social is a marketing stunt we’ve also seen before. 

Earlier this year, Yves Saint Laurent completely wiped its Instagram account after creative director, Hedi Slimane, was replaced.

The move was labelled as childish and immature by many in the fashion industry.

Of course, it’s not fair to tar Abercrombie & Fitch with the same brush, as the reboot is just one part of its wider, large-scale change – and one that certainly needed to happen.

With sales in continued decline before the relaunch, it remains to be seen whether or not it’ll help the brand regain its former glory.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 24 October, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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