I wanted to blog about this recently, widely discussed article, “Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Explains Why He Hates Fat Chicks”
First of all, at least in this article, the CEO never says he “hates” fat chicks or that he dislikes them in any way. But it’s a poorly written article, so what do you expect? Here’s why I don’t find his statements shocking or even offensive, particularly as a marketing professional.
- 1. For-Profit Business Exist to Make Money
It’s not their job to help you feel good about yourself or serve as positive role models. So it is silly of you to expect them to. Just like athletes, singers, & actors aren’t always good role models, neither are CEOs.
Some said he should tell teenagers to get over themselves & encourage acceptance, to which I have to ask, “Why?” WHY should he do that? That isn’t his job, for one thing. For another, do you really think it would make much difference?
- 2. Telling you, “You’re Beautiful As You Are,” is Not a Profitable Message
I think this is the key and the thing people really don’t get. What A&F does is nothing new. Nearly ALL products, particularly those pertaining to personal appearance, are trying to tell you you aren’t good enough as you are! It’s not a new message. Telling you the opposite, actually, is what drives purchases. “YOU NEED TO BUY THIS TO BE HAPPY/ACCEPTED,” is a common B2C marketing message. (And the reason why it’s best to not be exposed to much marketing!)
- 3. Beauty Sells
Someone posted with the comment, “What an a-hole!” To which I just had to reply, “Yeah… he’s a total a-hole. He should be like other clothing retailers who use fat & unattractive people in their commercials…. oooohhh, wait! ”
Seriously. Beauty sells. It is used to sell everything from perfume, to cars, to kitchen cabinets. Clothing retailers use beautiful people in their ads and want beautiful people working in their stores. A&F is just more blunt about it.
- 4. Elitism is Necessary for High Margins
You can’t be a brand that appeals to everyone, and yet be elite. It doesn’t work.
CEO Mike Jeffries stated, “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. … A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. 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.”
He is right. People, especially teens, DO want to be part of the “in-crowd.” People DO want to be attractive (both feeling that they are attractive and that others view them as attractive.) People also want something elite. & you can’t charge high prices unless you are elite. Why else do people pay for elite brands like Coach purses & Prada sunglasses? These companies want their brands to remain elite, so they don’t sell them at Walmart or Target, because they would lose that allure.
- 5. Fat isn’t Considered Beautiful
This is the only thing that I hate to say & makes me sad to post. I am not saying **I** feel this way… but IN OUR CULTURE, fat is not considered beautiful.
So he wants his clothes to be associated with in-crowd, and therefore doesn’t want to sell to fat people. I can see the logic from a business sense.
It’s bizarre that our country is one of the (the?) fattest on the planet & yet we dislike fat people…. really odd and I don’t understand it. But it just seems odd to me to vilify a business person simply for applying known facts about Americans’ motivations & desires to make money for his business. That is all this guy is guilty of!
- 6. Controversial Statements Get Talked About
I only have 117 friends on Facebook, plenty of whom never post, and yet two posted this article today. So there you go – he got us talking.
- 7. This is B2C (Business to Consumer) Marketing, People
Most of what he said is pretty basic B2C marketing… and it is why I am NOT in B2C Marketing! My career has been exclusively B2B – where I sell to businesses that have a problem to solve & will need to prove a return on their investment in my technology – an entirely different scenario!
I’m not saying I think what he is saying is good… it’s just SMART BUSINESS. SMART BUSINESS ISN’T ALWAYS KIND. That is a fact of life. It’s sad to lay people off. It’s sad to fire people for making mistakes, but it’s smart business.
Don’t look to for-profit business for guidance on how to live your life. They’re trying to sell you products.