Abercrombie Attempts to Prove Relevance by Reincarnating Decade-Old Campaign. Ironic or Effective?

In case anyone out there actually had hopes that Abercrombie & Fitch might change its marketing tune after finding itself embroiled in controversy this past spring, the brand’s latest campaign will probably be a major disappointment. If the clothing retailer’s newest effort seems like more of the same to you, that’s because it is — exactly the same.

Rather than make any sort of attempt at re-branding, A&F is doing exactly the opposite: the company is reincarnating its successful “Stars on the Rise” campaign from the early 2000s, which featured then-budding celebs like Taylor Swift and Ashton Kutcher. The updated effort features 11 “up-and-coming” actors including Alexander Ludwig from The Hunger Games, American Horror Story’s Lily Rabe, and Glee star Jacob Artist (we’re particularly sad about this last one, as we sort of thought the whole Abercrombie-is-only-for-cool-kids thing would make for a great episode of the equality/inclusion/self-esteem-themed show).

When asked about the campaign, Abercrombie’s director of marketing and public relations Michael Scheiner told Buzzfeed, “For many of our consumers today, they might not know what we did in 2005, so it seemed relevant to discuss this concept we’ve done in the past.”

It seems A&F is hoping that recreating a campaign from its heyday may also recreate the popularity the brand experienced during the same time period. But this strategy assumes the current audience will be equally receptive to the message, an assumption which — given the recent backlash against the brand and the current anti-bullying/pro-inclusion landscape — may be a gamble.

Still, opinions about whether the campaign will be a success vary greatly. For instance, Allen Adamson, a managing director at brand consultancy Landor Associates in New York, thinks the refreshed effort is “smart,” and said that “the energy they [the stars] bring, the authenticity, the hope, you just feel good looking at their stories.” Adamson added that featuring young hopefuls on the cusp of celebrity is a lot like buying a bunch of lottery tickets — if some of them do strike it big, they’ll be connected to Abercrombie.

On the other hand, AdWeek’s David Gianatasio finds the move ironic and lazy, saying of the campaign, “Apparently unable to think up a new idea vapid enough for its liking, Abercrombie & Fitch—the self-proclaimed brand for the cool kids —revisits its “Stars on the Rise” campaign from the early 2000s…Strange, he [Scheiner] used the word ‘relevant.’ Without irony. I think.”

So what do you think, readers? Is this a lazy, soulless move doomed to flop and reignite anger over the brand’s ‘cool kids’ message, or will today’s youth be intrigued by the faces of familiar celebs wearing Abercrombie jeans while cuddling dogs? Or maybe both?