Whether you’re an actor, an athlete, or a musician, one of the big signs that you’ve “made it” is when clothing companies start asking you to don their apparel publicly.
But what happens when a company approaches you asking you to stop wearing their clothes? Mike Sorrentino (no stranger to this blog and best known to us a “The Situation”) found that out recently when Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) offered to pay Sorrentino to stop wearing the company’s clothes publicly. An A&F spokesperson issued the following statement:
“We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans.”
El Sitcherino has, for his part, responded— and by what other means than Twitter, and A&F is now characterizing its offer as a PR Move.
Whether it’s a good PR move or a bad one is up for debate. (For what it’s worth, A&F’s stock price took 10% dip yesterday, though that may have been caused more so by the company’s recent earnings report.)
This situation (the PR one, not the abdominal one) raises an interesting question about companies seeking to police the quality of their brand. Trademark law recognizes this concept in a legal doctrine known as “dilution by tarnishment,” which basically involves an unauthorized use of a someone’s trademark that either creates a link between that mark and products/services that are low quality, or portrays that mark in an unwholesome or unsavory context. Legally speaking, A&F’s possible claims for dilution here are pretty weak. However, a contract’s a contract, and A&F and Sorrentino are free agree on any terms they want.
While A&F might be worried about Jersey Shore and its characters’ antics (personally I find them entertaining– somewhere right in that sweet spot between contemporary morality play and train wreck), the company may have acquiesced to the dilution of its “aspirational” brand back in 1999 when a band called LFO released their song “Summer Girls.” (Out of mercy, I opted not to include the video in this post or link to it. )
Interestingly, A&F isn’t the only company trying to distance itself from what it sees as undesirable consumers. The marketing bloggers over at Cream have some excellent thoughts on this story as it relates to the recent rioting in England and its implications for Research in Motion (RIM), the makers of Blackberry phones that figured into the organization of the riots.