In case you havenâ€™t heard, Mike Jeffries is a jerk. A big one. Robin Lewis was recently quoted claiming Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, â€œdoesnâ€™t want larger people shopping in his store, he wants thin and beautiful people. He doesnâ€™t want his core customers to see people who arenâ€™t as hot as them wearing his clothing. People who wear his clothing should feel like theyâ€™re one of the â€˜cool kidsâ€™.â€
So, Jeffries basically wants to hang a sign in front of every Abercrombie & Fitch store that reads: â€œNo Fat Chicksâ€.
Twitter is still aflutter with girls and guys claiming theyâ€™ll never, ever, ever shop there. Hereâ€™s the thing though: Jeffries is a jerk, but it doesnâ€™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 heâ€™s overcompensating for some deep-seated high school insecurities? Definitely. Do I think heâ€™s a fantastic marketer? Hell yes.
How to Make Sales & Alienate People
Hereâ€™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).
â€œIn 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 donâ€™t belong, and they canâ€™t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.â€ ~Mike Jeffries
Tell me something I donâ€™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 donâ€™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.
Itâ€™s not an opinion everyone agrees with, but itâ€™s one those popular, attractive, skinny teenagers agree with. And thatâ€™s his audience. Wake up! He doesnâ€™t care that people who have never shopped at Abercrombie & Fitch are vowing to never, ever, ever shop there.
He cares that heâ€™s empowering those popular, attractive, skinny teenagers. Heâ€™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 canâ€™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). Donâ€™t be afraid of the controversy that will arise from having an opinion – it’s worth it.
Itâ€™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.
â€œThose companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You donâ€™t alienate anybody, but you donâ€™t excite anybody, either.â€ ~Mike Jeffries
If you do it right, youâ€™ll create some controversy. Youâ€™ll alienate people. Youâ€™ll even piss some people off. You might be slammed by Kirstie Alley. And thatâ€™s ok. In fact, itâ€™s a good thing. Because if youâ€™re alienating someone, youâ€™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. Itâ€™s only when you risk being polarizing that you can be truly relatable.
â€œI donâ€™t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.â€ ~Bill Cosby