Companies spend a substantial amount of their money building up their brands identities in order – they hope – to foster long-term and meaningful relationships with their consumers. There have been several examples over this summer however where events in the real world have shown just how difficult it can be for companies to control of their image, and how consumers themselves shapes the brands they buy into….
Earlier in the year Abercrombie & Fitch got their knickers in a twist when Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, a star on MTV’s reality show Jersey Shore generally behaved like a complete idiot for the entertainment of over 2 million viewers whilst rather conspicuously wearing A&F clothes. They reportedly paid him a ‘substantial’ amount of money not to wear the brand, saying that his behaviour and lifestyle was antithetical to A&F’s ‘aspirational’ values.
And take Anders Breivik, the Norwegian rightwing extremist who went on a bomb and gun fuelled killing spree in July this year, killing 77 people in the name of his deranged anti-immigration ideology. Following his arrest, several photographs appeared of him being ferried to and from the courthouse and given the amount of media scrutiny he was subject to, it was not long before his dress sense became a subject of speculation. The fact he had been seen in two different Lacoste sweaters indicated a certain soft-spot for the French brand. Much to the company’s chagrin it later emerged that Brievik had actually mentioned the clothing brand at several points in his sprawling manifesto, praising their ‘conservative’ colours and suggesting this attire as a suitable uniform for any would-be followers. Needless to say Lacoste made a formal request to the Norwegian authorities asking that they not allow Breivik to be photographed wearing any more of their clothes.
Furthermore, in the aftermath of the riots this August, sportswear company JD Sports took quite a battering – both literally in the sense that over £700K of merchandise was looted from their stores nationwide, and from a PR perspective. It didn’t take long for commentators to note the ‘popularity’ of JD Sports amongst looters, and even less time for members of the public to start equating the hoodie-wearing criminals with the JD brand. Just trawling some of the online forums it becomes quickly apparent that JD Sports has a lot of ground to make up, when comments such as this are being made: “[The looters] like cheap, nasty, tacky polyester tracksuits and trainers cos they themselves are cheap, nasty and tacky people to begin with!”.
It seems that even with the best planning and marketing teams, brands will take on a life of their own once they’re out in the real world…
Lucy Bush, Research Manager