Monday, 23 March 2009

Abercrombie & Fitch on both sides of the Atlantic

American companies kick the crap out of their British counterparts when it comes to brand marketing and management - especially in the transference of these brands out of the domestic market and into foreign waters.

I remember when Krispy Kreme first branched out into the UK and you could only buy them in Harrods or Selfridges. Talk about manipulating the image. In the States, Krispy Kreme is ubiquitous - you can buy your original glazed boxes of sickly sweet sticky doom in MacDonald's style drive-through. But when glamorous women in Louboutin heels come strutting out of Harrod's with their doughnuts in a frosted plastic bag, it sends out a whole different message. The aura conferred by these women and the expensive bazaars which stocked KK meant that eventually the brand could branch out into high street: they are now sold in some high street Tesco's or stand alone shops.

But the best example of a brand purchasing a much bigger status over the pond is Abercrombie and Fitch. Walking down Burlington Gardens last Friday afternoon, on my way to get some Laduree macarons, I walked past Abercrombie and Fitch. The location of the shop in between Saville Row and Old Bond Street on Burlington Gardens tells you pretty much everything you need to know about A&F's aspirations in the UK.

This is what most of the Abercrombie stores look like in America:

This is what the Abercrombie store looks like in London:

This is a brand better known for its 'sexy' soft-porn ads that wind up the parents of the kids who buy the clothes. The style is a sort of over-priced Gap: boring, yet still managing to encourage a slightly slutty jeans and t-shirt look. They aren't prep enough to be J. Crew or J.Press but they're expensive enough to be cool in that just out of reach way for most American teenagers.

Funny then that Jack Wills wearing Sloaneys are totally buying into the A&F look. Actually, a lot of people I know got (and still are) really excited when the A&F shop opened in London. A girl I used to work with received an A&F hoody for her birthday and she was jumping up and down clutching the thing like a winning lottery ticket. It was a plain, pink hoody, with A&F plastered across it in big letters, which cost around £70. I just don't get it.

The funniest thing though was when I finally got to Lauduree, three kids (two guys and a girl) came into the shop behind me who had just been to Abercrombie. The were talking about all the different outfits they had purchased and what they would wear on their impending trip to San Francisco. They bought a wardrobe full of chavvy American clothes to wear on their holiday to America! It's absolutely brilliant - the triumph of pretending to be an exclusive brand when you export it around the world. I was so tempted to turn around and shatter the illusion these poor kids had created of Abercrombie and Fitch - I think they actually thought it was the US equivalent of a 5th Avenue brand. Or maybe they were more clever than I gave them credit for and they actually wanted to look like young, sheep-herded American teenagers. And anyway, even if I did explain to them what A&F or KK meant in America, it would still be like telling a chav that Burberry plaid isn't cool anymore.


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