Business Insider

Abercrombie’s Trying to Ditch Its Preppy Image. That May Not Fix Its Problems.

The brand, known for preppiness and elitism, is trying to tone down its exclusivity.

Photo by Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

Being nice isn’t always a good thing. As teen customers continue to flee the brand, Abercrombie has taken several steps to change its image and tone down its sexy advertisements. The company has been criticized in the past for its promiscuous ads and excluding customers who weren’t toned and preppy. Former CEO Mike Jeffries gained widespread attention when he said he only wanted the “cool kids” to shop at Abercrombie. Since then, the company has made strides by advocating anti-bullying campaigns and offering larger sizes.

But Abercrombie’s all-important teen customers may be bored by the brand as a result, and according to one brand expert the company’s attempts to become nicer may be more detrimental than beneficial.

“Abercrombie has removed their brand differentiation from what it used to be, and by trying to be nice—or maybe, more kosher—[concerned with the] sensitivity of the Americans,” Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO and founder of Vivaldi Partners, told Business Insider. “I think that has made Abercrombie bland.”

Not everyone liked Abercrombie, but one thing was certain about the brand: It had a target customer. “Abercrombie & Fitch had built on [a] particular customer, a particular consumer … they didn’t like anybody … [former CEO Mike Jeffries] said he [didn’t] want to market to everyone,” he said. “So I think that’s very important—if you don’t stand for something, you fall for anything. And what you see right now … Abercrombie, what they’ve done, is they’re in eternal drift mode.”

Abercrombie’s lack of a brand identity is evident on its website, too, with dresses that resemble those from its fast-fashion competitors, components of athleisure, and its namesake shirts with the company name emblazoned across the chest. This alleged lack of brand identity could confuse customers, Joachimsthaler said.

Abercrombie’s notorious “look” policy forced upon employees has landed the company a class-action lawsuit and a lost Supreme Court case. Earlier this year, Abercrombie softened its “look” policy.

So while the brand may no longer be offending people as frequently as it used to, it’s not doing anything at all—which might be worse, as Joachimsthaler hugely advocates brand differentiation. “If you think about it, everything that made them different, they have removed,” he said. “But they haven’t replaced it with anything.”

See also: 11 Major Changes Abercrombie Made in 2014