“The Situation” Caused a Branding Situation

The Branding Situation:  Abercrombie & Fitch, the preppy teen retailer, said it would pay a “substantial payment” to Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino or any cast member who stops wearing its clothing on the popular MTV reality show because the series is “contrary to the aspirational nature of the brand.”  “‘Jersey Shore’ shows 20-something guys and girls getting drunk every night and going out to party, so it clearly does not go with the image they have worked for over a decade to show to the world,” an Abercrombie & Fitch spokesperson said in a statement.

News Release Statements:“We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image.” the company said in a press release Tuesday (via CNN).
MTV called the move a “clever PR stunt” by Abercrombie. “We’d love to work with them on other ways they can leverage ‘Jersey Shore’ to reach the largest youth audience on television,” the network said Wednesday in a statement.
Analysts say while Abercrombie’s provocative move suggests a publicity ploy, the teen retailer does have an image to protect. Laura Ries, president of the Atlanta marketing consultancy Ries & Ries said the image is “classic, sexy, preppy teenagers.”

The Analysis: This brand is known for showing half-naked models to stand outside their stores, along with racy catalogs.  So why are they coming out with an aggressive campaign against the party cast of “Jersey Shore”?  Two words: publicity and leverage.

The Results: This audacious approach is getting the teen retailer tons of publicity during the crucial back-to-school season, the second biggest shopping period of the year. The CEO says it’s having fun with the ploy, and marketing experts say the company may wind up laughing all the way to the bank.
“It gets their name further out into the marketplace with one of the hottest brands on TV right now at the peak of the back-to-school season,” said Wall Street Strategies analyst Brian Sozzi. “It’s free marketing. Because the approach is so ridiculous, everybody’s talking about it.”
Ahem…I am talking about it, you are reading about it, and you might talk about it or already have.  The results speak for themselves.

Bottom Line: This branding situation is a great example of brand damage that could potentially occur if the wrong face and voice communicates the brand message.  It is also an example of branding through free marketing, the unsolicited and organic type which drums up attention, the kind of PR everyone hopes for.  Now they are paying for marketing {or not, if they don’t accept the substantial payments} with the ability to leverage brand awareness to all of the ‘Jersey Shore’ & MTV fan and non-fan audience.  Not to mention the exposure to all the analysts, marketing, PR, and branding people that love a good story.

What do you think about this branding situation?

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