In case you haven’t heard, Mike Jeffries is a jerk. A big one. Robin Lewis was recently quoted claiming Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, “doesn’t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people. He doesn’t want his core customers to see people who aren’t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like they’re one of the ‘cool kids’.”

So, Jeffries basically wants to hang a sign in front of every Abercrombie & Fitch store that reads: “No Fat Chicks”.

Twitter is still aflutter with girls and guys claiming they’ll never, ever, ever shop there. Here’s the thing though: Jeffries is a jerk, but it doesn’t matter. Like, at all.

In fact, here are some things that matter more than the fact that Jeffries is a jerk:

1. What you ate for breakfast this morning.
2. How long it will be before Lindsay Lohan gets locked up again.
3. Your high score on Fruit Ninja.

If anything, the fact that Jeffries is a jerk is going to do wonders for the brand.

Do I think what Jeffries has said in the past about plus size women is offensive? Yes. Do I think he’s overcompensating for some deep-seated high school insecurities? Definitely. Do I think he’s a fantastic marketer? Hell yes.

How to Make Sales & Alienate People

Here’s a universal truth: As a marketer, you need to know your audience. And Jeffries definitely knows his audience. He wants good looking, skinny, popular people wearing his clothes (in case you missed that the first time).

“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. We go after the attractive, all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” ~Mike Jeffries

Tell me something I don’t know, Internet. Here are some equally shocking revelations:

1. Chanel is a fashion brand for rich people.
2. Addition Elle is for plus size women.
3. Axe markets primarily to men.

The only difference is Chanel, Addition Elle, and Axe don’t come right out and say it. Or, at least not in the polarizing way Jeffries has. What matters is that Jeffries has an opinion.

It’s not an opinion everyone agrees with, but it’s one those popular, attractive, skinny teenagers agree with. And that’s his audience. Wake up! He doesn’t care that people who have never shopped at Abercrombie & Fitch are vowing to never, ever, ever shop there.

He cares that he’s empowering those popular, attractive, skinny teenagers. He’s focused on the people who belong (and the people who want to belong). Everything else is just free press.

Not Everyone Is Going to Like You. Get Over It.

This is what all marketers need to be doing. We need to have real opinions (and we can’t apologize for them like Groupon). We need to make statements that will resonate with our audiences… even if they will alienate others (ahem, Chick-Fil-A). Don’t be afraid of the controversy that will arise from having an opinion – it’s worth it.

It’s hard to make a brand relatable. Big executives invest millions in marketing teams that can help make their brands relatable to as many audiences as possible. Jeffries is pulling us in a different direction, a better direction.

We need to be more like Mike Jeffries (Yeah, I said it). Stop trying to be relatable to everyone. Focus! Work on being relatable to one audience. Skinny people, overweight people, men, women, rich people, poor people, smart people, dumb people, black people, white people – whatever.

“Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.” ~Mike Jeffries

If you do it right, you’ll create some controversy. You’ll alienate people. You’ll even piss some people off. You might be slammed by Kirstie Alley. And that’s ok. In fact, it’s a good thing. Because if you’re alienating someone, you’re simultaneously telling someone else that they belong.

You have to alienate to create a sense of belonging. You have to alienate to excite your customers. It’s only when you risk being polarizing that you can be truly relatable.

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” ~Bill Cosby

By Jeremy Schoemaker

Jeremy "ShoeMoney" Schoemaker is the founder & CEO of ShoeMoney Media Group, and to date has sold 6 companies and done over 10 million in affiliate revenue. In 2013 Jeremy released his #1 International Best selling Autobiography titled "Nothing's Changed But My Change" - The ShoeMoney Story. You can read more about Jeremy on his wikipedia page here.

23 thoughts on “Mike Jeffries Is a Jerk & Other Things That Don’t Matter”
  1. I agree with this post 110% Abercrombie has been on the decline for quite sometime now and remarks like this might piss people off but it gets people thinking about them as well.

  2. I thought this was brilliant, I have no sympathy for the fat people who were pissed off by this. If it offends you loose weight then, don’t get mad at him.

  3. Abercrombie does ZERO advertising outside their store so it kinda crazy to see him make this sort of a statement considering they are usually pretty conservative outside their 4 walls.

  4. Like they say in show business, “There is no such thing as bad press”. Sorry to say it is true, he will probably do well even though he is, like Jeremy says, is a jerk!

  5. Jeremy,

    I see where you’re going with this, however, that quote is more than seven years old and was taken out of context. In case you’re interested, I work at Abercrombie and this was posted in our break room today: http://instagram.com/p/ZoK3KPyxqI/

  6. Good post always and they are just targeting a specific group. Have a great day on purpose!

  7. Abercrombie has a target audience, and they’re sticking to it. Should they be more adaptive towards fat people or whoever? To put it bluntly, ‘not if they don’t want to.’ It is their brand, their image, and their right to “target” whoever they want. For Mike to have the balls to say something like this is huge in itself. But hey, the same thing has happened with other companies (like Chick-Fil-A) as you mentioned. This type of marketing won’t go away as long as it works for the company promoting it.

  8. That is great… you dont want to be vanilla because it doesnt excite anyone. So true, everyone likes it but what does it really do for anyone. They dont LOVE it that is for sure

  9. People like to be different and be able to get things others cant and A&F has definitely done this. Fat people can’t wear their clothes so they make fun of it but in reality they really want to

  10. This reminds me of when they told “the situation” not to wear any of their clothes anymore because they didnt want to be associated with people like him. BRILLIANT PR MOVE

  11. I thought this was old news? I mean really Jefferies does not have to come out and say my store is for skinny people. Hell walk and and try and find something an average person could fit into

  12. Ha i use to shop there when I was in highschool. Things have still not changed even if you where a size 5 at a different store expect to wear a size 9 there. They purposely make people feel fat

  13. I am with Jeremy and say any press is good press even if it is bad. You do not want to be a lameduck out there floating around doing what everyone else is doing or being afraid to make a move

  14. It’s really hard to make an argument that Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t know what they are doing since they make more and more money each year?? This quote is from years ago, and everyone knows what they are about. Just sayin’

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