Marketing ethnics are the ethnic standards which examines ethical problems that are specific to the domain of marketing. Although ethnic standards ought to be followed, some organizations bypass the loopholes in order to earn lucrative profits. In this paper, the marketing activities of a clothing company, Abercrombie & Fitch, (A&F), is discussed. The paper begins with A&F’s background and business activities, followed by some ethical issues of A&F faced over the years and suggestions to address the issues, and ends with a conclusion of this topic. A&F Co.
was founded in year 1892 in New York by David Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch. The early A&F was an elite outfitter of sporting and excursion goods. After the bankruptcy of the original A&F in 1977 (Press, 2001), A&F has switched to selling trendy clothing which targets on the youth market since 1979 with the term of ‘casual luxury’ lifestyle brand. A&F Co. is not only famous of its fashionable design clothing but also its controversial marketing campaigns. Besides selling trendy clothing, A&F publishes ‘A&F Quarterly’, which is an effective marketing tool with high circulation in market (Carr, 2003).
The catalogue is always criticized for its contents with models in erotic or homoerotic scenarios, alcoholic drink recipes, sex tips or porn star interviews (The Associated Press, 2011). Controversy photos were often featured in ‘A&F Quarterly’. The publications were viewed as A&F’s authority’s racial biased stand. Despite the negative publicities, A&F Co. still earned lucrative sales revenue (Bloomberg Businessweek, 2010). However, such marketing practice is viewed as unethical. A&F Co. violated two ethical values, ‘respect’ and ‘responsibility’.
In terms of respect, A&F Co. had obviously violated the value with its controversy cases throughout the years after its re-establishment in 1988 (Reichert, 2005). A&F stereotyped the customers and depicted demographic groups in its ways of promotion. In 2002, a graphic tee with the slogan that insulted the Asian immigrants in America was released. The product was pulled off from shelf after strong boycotts from Asian Americans (Guillermo, 2002). In 2004, A&F released T-shirts printed on “It’s All Relative in West Virginia” which implied incestuous relationships in
rural America. A&F kept the products on shelf even the governor of West Virgina spoke out against it (Dao, 2004). Such attitude of A&F Co. offended the people from West Virgina. It is very unethical to offend certain group of people in order to gain the publicity from the market. Responsibility is another value A&F Co. failed to comply with. A&F Co. targets on customers aged between 18 to 24 years old. A&F Quarterly’s sexually explicit content misleads the youths with ideas that conducting group sex and drinking aggressively are ‘cool’.
It may be argued that those youths are adults in legislation, but the youths are easily influenced at this age range, and this will cause great negative impact to the society in future (Women’s and children’s health network). Despite A&F Quarterly is restricted to the minors, catalogues are displayed on the store and accessible for the minors. This revealed A&F ignored their commitment to the vulnerable marketing segment, the children, by not taking effective precautions in keeping the catalogues away from the minors.
Such unethical behaviour may cause great negative psychological impact on the children. A&F Co. can consider switching their ‘sex advertising’ into ‘sport advertising’ in order to solve the ethical issues. ‘Sport advertising’ can be a good marketing strategy as most of the youths are interested in sports. The models would also be respected by the public when they are promoting sports instead of sex. Hiring sports players as company’s spokespeople; this could attract the sports fans in the market to their trendy clothing.
Good publicity will be obtained from healthy ‘sport theme’ instead of naughty ‘sex theme’, boycotts and lawsuits from the public will also be reduced and A&F fulfils its responsibility to the society. The marketers of A&F should abstain from using sensitive slogan to catch the attention from market. They could organize sale campaigns which aim to help the needy ones in worldwide. Besides gaining good image, the charity campaigns will also help in advertising A&F to the world and A&F gradually expands its market. In conclusion, A&F should embrace the ethical values in a serious manner.
Although the company satisfied its shareholders by earning lucrative sales revenue, they ignored their commitment to the customers and society. Short term profits may be earned by neglecting ethical values, but sustainable marketing is built by complying with ethical values. As one of the leading clothing companies, A&F should be a good example of embracing ethical values, by doing so the other medium clothing companies will learn the importance of ethical values besides earning profits only, and both customers and companies will enjoy their respective benefits from the market. (792 words) References:
Carr, David; Rozhon, Tracie (2003-12-10). “Abercrombie & Fitch to End Its Racy Magazine”. New York Times. Dao, James (March 22, 2004). “T-Shirt Slight Has West Virginia in Arms”. The New York Times International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 35. St. James Press, 2001. Reichert, Tom; Jacqueline Lambiase (2005). Sex in Consumer Culture. Routledge. pp. 330–331. The Associated Press October 7, 2010, “Abercrombie & Fitch Sept. revenue metric rises”, Bloomberg Businessweek. Women’s and children’s health network, Young Adult Ages 18-25. http://www. cyh. com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails. aspx? p=240&np=300&id=2059