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In 2012 the company launched a marketing campaign with the slogan “I am Torrid” to promote the beauty and sexuality of voluptuous women. Vice President of Marketing Lisa Stanley explains “Our customers want real fashion that is flattering to their figures, and they want to be portrayed as they are: sexy, fearless and beautiful. The ‘I am Torrid’ campaign tells that story.” (Businesswire.com, 2012) Torrid also utilizes Instagram to advertise, using photos that real-life customers send in using the company hashtag #TorridFitsMe.
When Torrid launches a new body-positive campaign such as #thesecurves, they partner with these online bloggers to encourage others to feel comfortable in their skin. The #thesecurves campaign was launched to promote their line of bathing suits and lingerie, as the company felt the options for those clothing types are usually bland and boring. Displayed is a photo taken from the Torrid Instagram of a customer submission, wearing a burgundy and black crisscross strappy bra and underwear.
From the beginning, Torrid has taken pride in communicating with customers, as its very existence was due to listening to them. Torrid understands that serving a niche market involves a lot of hard work and has set a very high standard for the company. It prioritizes making the customers feel as valued and empowered as possible. Blogger Amanda Valdez recalls her excitement upon discovering Torrid and the impact it has made on her. “It represented much more than a piece of clothing. It represented inclusiveness. It opened the door to discovering my personal style and self-worth” (Caldwell,2017).
Established in 1892, Abercrombie and Fitch is an American retailer offering upscale casual wear clothing for teenagers. Once known for hiring semi-nude models as store greeters, the brand has undergone many changes in its 126 years of business. Reconstructing the image of the company has been the most predominate adjustment time and again. Many of these transformations were brought upon in attempts to repair the company’s reputation, as it has been a source of many controversies. Many of the controversies were connected to the company’s previous CEO, Mike Jeffries.
After Abercrombie and Fitch filed for bankruptcy and was bought by Limited Brands in 1988, Mike Jeffries was hired to rebrand the company’s image. Wanting it to “sizzle with sex” (Salon, 2006), his vision was embedded in virtually every aspect of the company, including the employees hired, the target market, and the ambiance of its stores. Inside their brick and mortar locations, Abercrombie and Fitch once hired shirtless male models to greet its customers amid dim lighting, upbeat music, and a musky fragrance so intense it was detectible just passing by the entrance.
Wall-to-wall posters of risqué photos from the company’s advertisements hung within the store. Examples of these advertisements include a topless couple lying in the grass wearing just A&F jeans. With the woman on top of the man, the advertisement just barely misses the explicit nudity mark. Another example includes a billboard featuring the neck-down topless torso of a muscle-clad man. The model’s hands are positioned on the belt loops of the jeans that are barely noticeable due to being pulled down so low and cut off from the rest of the billboard. Of course, “Abercrombie & Fitch” is plastered in big letters.
Jeffries believed that hiring good-looking people as employees attracted good-looking customers, which he is quoted saying he “doesn’t want to market to anyone other than that.” (Salon, 2006). In an interview administered by Benoit Denizet- Lewis and published in Salon magazine in 2006, Jeffries describes that the kind of people he wants wearing A&F’s clothes as the “cool, popular kids in school.” (Salon, 2006). Jeffries vision of the Abercrombie and Fitch customer certainly doesn’t include those who are considered plus-size. In the same article, Jeffries admits that a lot of people don’t belong in A&F’s clothes, that 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 told Salon. The clothing brand doesn’t offer XL or XXL sizes for women and only offers those sizes in men’s to cater to beefy, muscle-clad men. The largest size Abercrombie and Fitch carries in its store is a size 10 in women’s pants. The company once came under fire for selling women’s T-shirts that read “Do I Make You Look Fat?”
A simple blue T-shirt with the offensive phrase in white capital letters sparked so much criticism that the company ended up pulling it from the shelves altogether. Abercrombie and Fitch’s CEO embedded his definition of attractive into the company’s image and branded it to his ideals. Being explicit that the reason the company does not sell plus-size clothing specifically because it will ruin the company’s image is a shaming tactic. Not carrying plus-size clothing isn’t a shaming tactic in itself, but ostracizing others to market to “thin, beautiful customers” (Salon, 2006) proves to be shaming. Psychologists argue that, regardless of whom the rejection comes from, it interferes with the psychological need for a sense of social belonging and reduces self-esteem (Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. 1995).
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