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Abercrombie's massive rebrand initiates with Instagram disappearance

Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has taken advantage of the holiday season?s influx of advertising to reinvent its brand image with a campaign that leverages multiple mobile-optimized digital channels.

The campaign, aptly titled This is Abercrombie & Fitch, is the company?s largest ever advertising campaign, and features a completely redesigned mobile-optimized Web site, newly-branded digital advertising across multiple mobile-optimized platforms including social media and out-of-home marketing New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. But the tenor of This Is Abercrombie & Fitch truly manifests itself not from one of its newest elements but out of a deletion: any of the brand?s 3.1 million Instagram followers visiting its page today will be met with merely three branded images, all the rest of the retailer?s content conspicuously missing.

?Abercrombie & Fitch, a 125 year old Brand, may have lost its way in the last several years, and their numbers show this,? said Marci Troutman, CEO of SiteMinis. ?The rebranding effort will take some time and money to reposition as a more inclusive brand. 

?10 years ago A&F was the height of mall retail theater- that doesn?t play as well in this age of social media,? she said. ?Within a significant rebranding effort it is wise to clean the decks and start with a fresh slate. 

?With millions of Facebook likes and social media followers, this new brand strategy should get the attention A and F desires. And yes? A&F are definitely throwing out the old to quickly bring in the new before the holiday season is in full swing.?

Courting controversy
The rebrand comes at a time of severe hardship for the company. As its same store sales have been plummeting for years and plans to close dozens of locations underway, fast-fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara devour a market share that was once firmly in the grip of Abercrombie at the precipice of the new millennium.

Its once-reliable teen demographic seems to have moved on to different retail pastures, and an attempt to pivot towards an older market? 18-25 year olds, the same adults who bought its clothes with reckless abandon as teens a decade earlier? is ostensibly failing, with sales continuing to decrease.

The brand?s fade was exacerbated by incendiary comments from CEO Mike Jeffries on the various kinds of people he did not want to see wearing his company?s clothes, comments which many of Abercrombie?s customers subsequently had no qualms in obliging. Jeffries stepped down as CEO in 2014. 

Abercrombie?s response to its decline comes in the form of its new holiday campaign, and the spirit of the campaign is candid about its need to rebrand.

Abercrombie & Fitch's newly redesigned Web site

The brand?s Web site is completely redesigned and is the location where the new color scheme becomes most apparent, with its heritage navy blue swapped for a bold red.

The campaign also carries a deep mobile-optimized video component, with campaign content featuring the brand?s signature models hosted on streaming Web sites such as YouTube. One such video begins with a placard featuring the phrase, ?People have a lot to say about us. They think they've got us figured out,? intercut with footage of Abercrombie?s patent models, spliced in between campaign slogans such as, ?It?s time for a fresh start,? and ?We?re wiping the slate clean.?

And nowhere is the brand?s desire to wipe the slate clean more explicit than on its Instagram page, which now contains only three images featuring the new color scheme and slogan. The decision to delete all remnants of the brand?s social media legacy is a bold one considering the amount of its followers, and it is sure to get attention.

Whether that attention is positive or negative, the holiday season will tell.

Abercrombie shows a pared down Instagram presence

Massive rebrand
Between the amount of capital going into the rebrand, Abercrombie?s recent sales woes and the sheer audacity of such a hard pivot, the This is Abercrombie & Fitch campaign is certainly a high-stakes endeavor. Since the rebrand is so clearly focused on the holiday season, it will be difficult to judge its efficacy outside of the litmus test of Q4 sales numbers.

Until then, it is clear that Abercrombie & Fitch want consumers to think that they are looking at the future of the brand in This is Abercrombie & Fitch. Equally clear is its desire to have them forget about its past.

Earlier this year, the brand?s Hollister Co. subsidiary sponsored Snapchat?s Spring Break live story with millennial-centric video snippets that played into a larger narrative in an attempt to maintain the attention of its target demographic (see story).

And there are rebrands abound this holiday season: beauty company Avon recently launched a new omnichannel campaign, This is Boss Life, for the purposes of recruiting Avon representatives and updating its brand image (see story).

?If any brand is going to execute a total redefinition of who they are, it is best to aggressively push out the old and stake a major claim on the new,? Ms. Troutman said. 

?You can?t dip your toe and expect success in this type of endeavor.?