Abercrombie & Fitch are blazing trails in Brand Advocacy.

Having seen their shares grow 222% this year, compared to the fashion industry’s average of 12%, the brand is onto something. They’ve been busy leveraging the dynamism of Social Commerce and the authentic voices of their community to win. 

Join Paul & Verity LIVE from the Social Commerce Summit: New York, as they delve into Abercrombie’s remarkable transformation story with the team.

Uncover the tactics Abercrombie applied to deliver a strategic brand pivot – one that empowers their customers and creators, giving them the freedom to tell the brand’s story through their own eyes.

Tune in to discover…

  • Listening to Customers & Taking Action: Feedback from Abercrombie’s brand community informs every move these marketers make. In fact, this feedback informs every single team in the business. By listening to their customers closely – and actually taking action on the thoughts, feelings, and ideas they share – Abercrombie has launched hyper-successful new lines, collections, and activations.
  • Choosing Authentic Advocates: Authenticity is key when selecting Advocates, as the brand looks for influencers who entirely align with their brand purpose. Working with creators across various niches – from weddings, to workouts, to everyday staples – Abercrombie taps into their insights to drive brand awareness in new ways. 
  • Tapping into Unexpected Audiences: Abercrombie is now built around the idea of outfitting their customers for the perfect long weekend. Every product is an answer to a customer's direct needs. That’s how the brand has found success tapping into unexpected audiences to expand their reach. You can, too.

Listen. Learn something. Apply it. Evolve.

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A Masterclass from Abercrombie & Fitch on Reinventing Retail

Paul: And now, Abercrombie & Fitch, as we touch on; they are trailblazing, world-leading and shares have rallied 222% over the past year. So you must be doing something good, relative to the industry growth of 12%. So like, easily one of – if not the – hottest brands in the world. 

And because I feel the pleasure to actually know you guys, after working with you for a little bit, like, it is genuinely… they are one of the tightest operating companies I've ever been exposed to, and they're just all really, really smart. It really comes down to amazing people and that's why they're doing so well to it. So congrats to you guys for it. 

Do you want to kick us off first questions? 

Verity: Yeah, of course. I mean, I suppose Abercrombie is known for actively engaging its community and its customers and really showing care. I would really love to kind of, like, dig into… how do you use the feedback from your brand community to  inform your marketing strategies?

Cory: I can go. Well, actually, it's part of the reinvention that I touched on, actually, in when we got a new CEO, Fran Horowitz. She's incredible. We love her. But one of the things that she and our whole new leadership stood up on was this devotion to staying closely listening to our customers. 

So ithat is permeated through every single thing that we do, the idea that we are… are laser focused on listening to our customer. And that has extended to creators as well. 

But we have created entire the brand, to be honest, around listening to our customer and the people with whom we partner. Because Abercrombie now is designed around the idea of how to outfit our Muse customer for their perfect long weekend. So it's every single product that they would need for their perfect long weekend, whether that is active wear, we launched an active line, whether it's more inclusive gene sizing, whether it's linen for tropical vacations or wedding shop or anything like that. 

Everything that the brand does is specifically an answer to a customer's need. 

And then with creators and the community that we've created, we tap into that so much for insights into how to move forward. We even fit test with our community. We poll them about what sort of things they're excited to do over the summer. Are they gonna go to an F1 race? I don't know. The answer is yes. That sort of thing. So yeah, it's kind of in every single thing that we do. 

Stacie: I think even with the creator side of that, jeans are a great example. We've been hearing very loud and clear from our creators that their audiences, they want more size ranges in our jeans. So we were able to take that feedback to our product teams who are then able to develop a more inclusive size range, everything from the waist size to even the lengths of jeans, too. And that's really how we've been able to, you know, build the denim business even more. 

Cory: Actually, yeah, sorry to build on that. Yes, and we spoke to creators when we were talking to them about our inclusive size range and a lot of people were talking about the challenge of when you work with people of larger size, some of them, depending on body shape, will experience a waist gap. And so that's how our entire Curve Love fit was introduced, was listening to everybody about the challenges that they experienced with denim, introducing Curve Love to satisfy the needs of people who experience that issue. And that now accounts for like almost half of our denim business. So it's a big finding. 

Paul: You must, I mean, Stacie, you must work with and speak to and see and review so many different creators and like try to brief them, telling them the story; you've got a new product coming out, it's got a Curve Love fit, it's a different sort of thing. How do you actually manage to balance that sort of authenticity with getting the product message out? 

Because at the end of the day, you are trying to get that brand story out there. You're trying to get a message of a specific thing. 

How do you actually make sure that that works in that sense? 

Stacie: It's a great question. I think where we really start, whenever we are starting a partnership with an influencer, is to make sure that they are authentically a fan of the brand. So if they are not wearing Abercrombie or they would never wear Abercrombie in their lives, it doesn't really make sense with us to partner with them because it would feel very forced. 

So I think when we're looking to promote specific product categories, whether it's our new wedding shop or our denim line, we'll start with creators who are wearing a lot of dresses, who are going to a lot of weddings, who love denim. Even better if they are already fans of Abercrombie jeans, but I think that's really where it starts. And from there, they're able to just create the content naturally because it's something that they are already doing. 

Paul: Nice. And that idea of Advocacy that you were talking about there, Cory, it is baked in as an organization. You… you sense a way forward. It's a core pillar for you guys. How do you actually bake that in operationally? Like, how do you get it in from the top, right down to the bottom within your team within the HQ team, within the store associates; like, how is that just reinforced, time and time again? 

Cory: I think it does sort of start at the top to be honest. We are really lucky in that the leadership at the company totally and completely understands the power of creator marketing. And so we are constantly challenging ourselves and they're constantly challenging us to be fair about how we can infuse this energy into as many things as possible, and what is the breadth of utility of all of the work that we're doing to create community. And it's a lot of testing and learning to be honest. 

We work on an agile system of marketing where we're working way ahead of time, because we have to with the product and manufacturing and shipping and all that stuff. And so we all are in a room talking about what the… right now, we're talking about holiday and spring of next year. And we're in the room constantly saying, you know, how might we be able to leverage this? How might we be able to do that? 

And I think our leadership is also challenging people cross-functionally, how to consider incorporating the work that we do into their work as well.

So we've got partners on our paid team who are like, hey, you guys do a lot of great stuff with creators. What do you guys think about working more closely with Chicks in the Office, this really great podcast that indexes incredibly well with our audience? It's like, yes, absolutely. How do we… how do we blow that out into something bigger? Because they've got this really wonderful community themselves. 

And so, so, yeah. And even beyond marketing, too. The partnerships across and the collaboration across the product teams and the merchandising teams, they're all on social media too. They're looking at all the influencers that we're working with to hear what they're saying about our jeans or any products. If they're seeing like, so and so influencer, her jean didn't fit right. They'll actually take that back and try to figure out what went wrong. So they're really listening and they're really engaged in the whole creator space as well.

Stacie: Yeah, they call TikTok a billion person focus group. 

Paul: Nice. I just wanted two things. First of all, what do you mean by like, agile marketing? Just so you explain to people, like how does that work? 

Cory: I'm going to be honest. I believe agile is actually like… the company that invented this style of marketing, but it's working ahead of time in these functional groups where It's different for every organization, but for us, it's thinking strategy, then execution, and then actually putting it into play. And so you have people who come together months and months and months in advance to think through what that season is going to look like, and then come up with the overarching strategies and hand it off to somebody else who sits there and that group takes it and says, how is this applicable to each of our individual functions? And then, you know, it progresses beyond that, to the group of who's actually implementing all of that. So it's sort of a stair-step approach to marketing. 

I mean, I think when we first started, Abercrombie had not had a rebrand yet. So I think our first challenge was really how do we get people to even consider us again? 

And once we were able to, you know, get the consideration out there, I think now our biggest challenge is really how do we scale it in a way that's manageable? And that really was where our Creator Suite program was born, because we were able to kind of take all of the all of the people in the creator space and the community who wanted to talk about Abercrombie and wanted to partner with us, we were able to kind of all put it into one program so we can speak to the masses. Yeah, scale is the challenge that we've had. 

I can speak for Stacie because I know this happened for her. We got people reaching out to us via creators, reaching out to us via LinkedIn, through my PR email, our personal DMs on Instagram. I have an Instagram for my dog and somebody figured out that my dog was my dog and was reaching out in the DMs of my dog. And so the Creator Suite program has honestly been incredible for us as a vessel to direct all of that attention to.

Verity: I mean, brand love right there. Hustle, right? They've got amazing hustle.  

Cory: That's the one thing you've got to trust. If you allow someone else to tell that brand story, they're probably going to do it with more hustle. Really well, yeah. 

Verity: OK, so, if we want to kind of take it a little bit bigger… I mean, again, Abercrombie is known for the offline experiences and creating in-store environments. Sort of in this omnichannel world, like how are you connecting these offline experiences with your online platforms to kind of create this seamless customer journey? 

Cory: Yeah, I for one am loving the fact that Gen Z and Gen Alpha are obsessed with malls again. That's wonderful. We do have a pretty omni-channel approach. Honestly, I touched on it earlier, but the whole brand is crafted around this getaway, this long weekend. And so you can see that in our stores. Our new stores that we're rolling out are designed around like, a really chic lobby of a hotel. And then that carries through that energy, that vibe carries through in our website. But in terms of like bridging that experience, yes, the aesthetic of it all sort of flows, but in function for our Advocacy program… a lot of: we do introduce components of that where we ask them to go into the store for various different challenges or we do contests on social or, you know, we're doing store specific launches or little regional components. Or when we throw big events, we're throwing them in our stores to bring the community into them. 

So it's very, yeah, it's online and it's in person for sure. Tapping into our creators to help us promote our stores too. 

Verity: What are the kind of key qualities that you look for when choosing the right Advocates? I'd love to explore that. 

Stacie: Yeah, I kind of touched on this a little earlier, but I think it kind of just starts with the person who authentically can speak to their audiences in a way that their audience trusts them. So it becomes natural for them to promote Abercrombie products and their audiences are like, wow, maybe I should go try that. So I think that's really… authenticity is the first. Being a fan of the brand is obviously a plus too. 

And I think just looking for people who are living that long weekend in their lives, are they going to dinner with their friends and going to weddings on the weekends? Well, we know our customers are looking for going-out outfits and wedding guest dresses. So they're following those people who are also doing those things. So just finding the right influencers that align with our brand purpose. 

Also, it also depends on what we want that end product to be. We've got so many different avenues of focus on all of our community things. There are people who we look to to shout about the brand and create awareness. There's people who we know really convert. There's people who we know create fabulous content and people who are so good at creating community and engaging with their audiences. So it sort of also depends on what that end deliverable is. It's amazing. 

Paul: Now I've got a question here on mum's iPad. So for A&F, what about unexpected audiences? Do you lean in there? What's an example of this?

Cory: I would say. It just kind of makes me laugh because I… when you mentioned, mentioned IGTV, that was… that was something we played into at the beginning of the pandemic. We were tapping into all kinds of unexpected audiences. We were tapping into chefs and they were creating cooking videos wearing Abercrombie, and we were tapping into yoga instructors who were doing like at home yoga classes on IGTV and we would outfit them in that. So I think it's it's important to go, you know, to do unexpected audiences as well because they have their audiences that probably are not thinking about the brand right now. So, you know, it's probably just as important to have some of those unexpected partners who have the unexpected audiences that we're trying to reach. And that just kind of expands our total reach. 

Stacie: Yeah. For Abercrombie Kids, one of the unexpected audiences we didn't really see coming are people with, with neurodivergent kids, so kids with sensory issues. And it started making its way around a lot of Facebook Groups of parents of those kids talking about, hey, if you are really looking for the right kind of clothes for your kids that aren't going to trigger any of their sensory sensitivities, then Abercrombie Kids has the softest… like, you know, they were Advocating for it so well. So that was an unexpected audience. 

And from that, then it really allowed us to lean into like, the softness of these things and really drive that home and, you know, make sure that we are working with people who have kids that are in those populations. 

Verity: So, yeah. I always find it so interesting when a brand kind of starts to see these segments of audiences that they never knew were big fans of the brands. And that's really interesting for you. I mean, we've interviewed people and they've had horse riders that they just never expected. There's gamers or yeah, all sorts of people… find it really interesting. 

Paul: Yeah. Any more questions on that? 

Verity: Well, I think we're actually at time.

Paul: That we are. Well, that was incredible. And, you know, there is definitely a special secret sauce there that's going on. Thank you so much.