As revealed in Netflix’s new documentary, ‘White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch’, today’s company is very different from the brand of the 1990s and early 2000s. For more than a decade, Abercrombie and Fitch have been in the process of rebuilding its reputation; this reveals some interesting lessons that we can take away as PR and comms professionals.
In its heyday, Abercrombie & Fitch (Abercrombie) was worth more than $5 billion and had more than 1000 stores worldwide. During this period, the company was led by Mike Jeffries, who once revealed in that now-famous 2006 interview that the company’s marketing strategy was deliberately exclusionary. He only wanted the ‘attractive’, ‘cool kids’ wearing Abercrombie. If we look a little deeper, we see that this was not merely a surface level PR strategy – you want what you can’t have, right? Instead, racist and exclusionary policies were embedded within the company’s culture. While these policies once appeared to benefit Abercrombie, as attitudes changed, they quickly eroded the company’s reputation, which has had a fundamental impact on the business’s long-term growth.
The question is; what can the demise of Abercrombie teach us about the importance of managing your company’s reputation?
As the company’s figurehead, the CEO will always have a significant impact on the reputation of your company – both positive and negative! The former CEO of Abercrombie, Mike Jeffries, who once led the brand’s revival, would ultimately become its biggest liability. Jeffries was known for his bold ideas and commitment to the brand. However, he was also uncompromising, unorthodox, and did not take criticism well.
While Jeffries has long since left the company, Abercrombie is still working to ameliorate the damage caused by his tenure as CEO. Ultimately, Jeffries should not have been left to manage the company for so long. That being said, the current CEO, Fran Horowitz, has been working hard to ensure that the company is accountable for past mistakes. In a statement to CNN, Horowitz said, “we own and validate that there were exclusionary and inappropriate actions under former leadership,” adding that the company is now “a place of belonging”.
While the company has a long way to go, the importance of leadership accountability is evident here. Suppose a business fails to hold its leader accountable or recognise when it is time for leadership change. In that case, long-term damage will be inflicted upon the company’s reputation.
As times change, often should a company’s values. Failure to make the necessary changes will eventually impact the reputation of any company. When Jeffries began his tenure as CEO, he built the brand upon racist and discriminatory values. These values quickly began to seep into company culture and policies, hiring practices, and even the designs on the clothes.
In 2003, 8 former employees sued Abercrombie for race and sex discrimination. Without admitting any guilt, the company settled and was required to pay $40 million and sign a decree to change its practices and promote diversity.
For a while, the company continued to get away with its discriminatory practices. However, these days consumers value and expect brands to promote diversity and inclusion. Abercrombie failed to move with the times, which meant that as attitudes changed, the brand became toxic, and their failure to own up to past mistakes came back to haunt them. Companies should continually audit their values and policies to ensure that they are promoting diversity and inclusion and that they are not breaking the law, for that matter!
The demise of Abercrombie from a multi-billion dollar brand to a disgraced clothing company can teach us a few things about managing your company’s reputation:
Facebook has had its fair share of crises in its relatively short and troubled tenure – the most recent being revelations from whistleblower, Frances Haugen, about the company’s algorithm increasing divisiveness on the platform, as well as insider knowledge about Instagram being harmful to mental health. And yet, at the start of the year, we heard about the company’s rebrand to Meta with a renewed focus away from social media and toward what is known as the metaverse (check out our previous post on the metaverse to find out more).
While it seems perfectly feasible for Facebook to rebrand – as businesses typically rebrand every seven to 10 years (Firefly included!), Facebook sceptics might think that the ‘Meta’ rebrand is merely an aesthetic exercise in an attempt to cover up a string of wrongdoings. Rebranding to Meta to align with future goals and visions of the metaverse does make sense – a company setting out a new vision, new goals and a rebrand to align to those goals is the natural next move. But in the case of Facebook (and many other rebrands, which I’ll come onto), it can also be a reputation reshaping exercise, which brings me to the question, is a rebrand enough to save a reputation?
Moving with the times – why companies rebrand
Facebook isn’t the first, nor will it be the last company to rebrand, especially after a spout of bad publicity. In fact, many brands will do a complete overhaul throughout their time – in a lot of cases, it’s how big brands have kept going for so long. When McDonalds chose to completely revamp its restaurants from the playful, Ronald McDonald kids culture to the more sophisticated, café-like culture of today, it was simultaneously going through a major crisis. The documentary “Super Size Me” exposed various health concerns around McDonalds food, prompting a drop in profits and leaving a bad taste in the mouth (no pun intended) for consumers.
Elsewhere, the Gillette 2019 advert which announced the brand’s new slogan and made references to #MeToo and toxic masculinity conversations split opinions across the public. Some deemed the change a fresh look from the 30-year old tagline, while others decided to boycott the brand, claiming it as “feminist propaganda” and “emasculating men”. The brand rode the wave, defending the campaign and stuck to its new ways despite the outrage.
Besides moving with the times, a rebrand might also be spurred on by a new CEO or exec team, there may have been a recent merger or acquisition, or perhaps the company is ready to go global and needs to rebrand to be able to reach that global audience. Whatever reason a company chooses to rebrand, it can reap many reputational rewards, but also faces multiple risks if not done right.
Don’t just be a pretty face
Saving a damaged reputation needs to be carefully considered. Simply changing the face of your brand alone won’t cut it, the audience will be able to see straight through the cosmetic changes, so remember to also work on real change inside the company too.
Here are few pointers to consider if you’re thinking about rebranding and reshaping your reputation:
Firefly Communications has appointed Marco Dautel as associate director to strengthen its German agency, based in Munich.
Marco’s area of responsibility will be to enhance strategic client work and to further develop the company’s consulting and service offering, as well as the overall business in Germany. Marco brings 15 years of PR experience to the table, having worked for clients in the technology, mobile, security, consumer electronics and travel industries.
Firefly Group CEO Claire Walker says, “We have a solid client base in Germany and a great team that delivers outstanding results. With Marco onboard, we are further strengthening our proposition. The combination of his and our pan-European experience in the technology and digital services markets will help Firefly Germany grow as it continues to shape the reputations of its existing and future clients.”
Marco joins from German leisure and experience expert, Jochen Schweizer, where he led the public relations efforts of the group and its founder. Before Jochen Schweizer he led the consumer technology teams at Edelman Munich and Bite Communications Germany, where he worked for a wide range of clients such as Microsoft Xbox, HTC, HP, Norton by Symantec and Razer.
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Recently, Firefly Communications celebrated our 25th anniversary, a major achievement for an independent agency. With such a rich background and a variety of experience within the agency, we’re always discussing how PR has changed during our time in the industry.
Admittedly I’ve only worked in PR for just over 3 years, but even so, the change during that period has been astonishing. When I joined my first agency, social media was just something you’d engage with your friends on, now it’s being used as the bedrock of communications, with it’s unique ability to reach virtually every demographic on a global and local scale.
I’ve also noticed a growing trend of content marketing coming into play, with content such as infographics, video content, white papers and case studies becoming more popular in their use. News is no longer just focused on a press release and some images, a rich variety of content can enhance how we tell our story and we just have to be clever in how we present it.
Everyone else will have similar experiences to mine, but for those of you who’ve been in the industry for longer than me, there will have been an even bigger shift in how PR works.
The invention and application of the internet has made virtually all processes much easier for both PRs and journalists alike. Gone are the days when typewriters, fax machines and photocopiers were the norm, now we’re googling and working in the cloud.
The media landscape has also changed rapidly. Once upon a time you’d have never dreamed of placing your news anywhere other than in print, now online is part and parcel of our practise. The rise of digital media has changed how we approach getting our news out there.
At Firefly, we’re keen to know what everybody else thinks. PR has changed tremendously over the years and as a result, it’s virtually unrecognisable from how things were 25 years ago.
The past, present and future of PR is a topic that is regularly discussed and one of great interest to everyone in the industry. We’ve put together a survey, to get your opinions on how much you think the PR industry has changed, what things you don’t miss doing, what things you think you’ll stop doing and hot new PR trends that are due to explode in popularity in the near future.
Please click here to fill out the survey. We’d greatly appreciate your input and there are 5 x £20 Amazon vouchers up for grabs.
This post was written by Tom. Contact him on LinkedIn or Twitter.
In today’s online world, it is not only important that we help our clients to produce the most compelling content. We simply must ensure that we make best use of that content, in its distribution.
It has been said that “every company is a media company”. Certainly, we advise every company whom we work with to master the technologies of publishing effectively to their customers (and by that, we could mean bloggers, journalists, investors, stakeholders, end consumers, even their own staff, and so the list goes on…)
However, in this content-rich world, a brand can end up with several different communication channels; all of which are important in their own right, but none of which quite does the job of publishing and communicating in the right way to showcase the brand’s profile and influence its online reputation. The brand’s main website is a great first point of call, but is the online shop window; and therefore may not be the best communication channel for all the detail behind that window dressing. Tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all great channels for communication and interaction, but can’t tell the brand’s full story or give all the key information at a glance.
Which is why Firefly has long been a fan of the newsroom. In fact, Firefly is credited with launching the first ever newsroom for a client in the 1990s. Now, we work with our clients to create for them one authentic central online hub as a newsroom. This newsroom is fully branded and integrated into the brand’s existing website and URL, and house all of its press materials, coverage, images, social media channels and press contacts.
The primary purpose of our newsrooms is so that the brand’s target audience(s) can always quickly access, understand, and engage with that brand’s content. Of course it is also important that the newsroom will secure reach to relevant online audiences; which is why news releases on our newsrooms are optimized for online publication and can also be re-used by citizen journalists and bloggers.
Earlier this year, Firefly announced that we had been appointed to work with the UK’s first venture capital-backed equity platform for buying shares in unlisted companies: InvestingZone. We now launch our most recent newsroom, for InvestingZone . The newsroom gets viewed by both potential investors and journalists. For investors, it is important to demonstrate that InvestingZone receives a steady stream of credible high level press coverage. For journalists, it is an easy-to-use, one-stop-shop for the latest news and information from one of the UK’s top crowd-funding platforms.
If you are interested in how Firefly can create a newsroom to hold your content effectively, combining the most powerful aspects of social and search worlds, then please do get in touch.
[In the voice of Don LaFontaine] This summer, Firefly presents the production… “YummyPets: Are we a nation of cat lovers of dog lovers?”
In this radio event, which was two months in the making, reality TV stars Amy Childs from The Only Way is Essex and Gabriella Ellis from Made in Chelsea battled it out to discover which pet should be crowned the nation’s favourite…
The winner? Before we tell you, here is how this little production came about.
The challenge set by the producers (aka: our client, YummyPets)
YummyPets, a social network for pet owners, was launched by Firefly in the UK in May 2013. Following its arrival to British waters, Firefly was tasked with coming up with a way of increasing UK YummyPets members.
The story formulated by the Director (aka: the Firefly team)
Home of all our favourite social animals, Yummypets is perfectly placed to answer the question…
Great Britain, which are we: a nation of cat lovers or dog lovers?
It’s a question that divides opinion and reveals a lot about your personality. The kittens, we mean mittens, were off – as cat-lovers and dog-lovers tried to get one up on each other and decide which animal ultimately unites the United Kingdom. The poll was opened for one month to everyone – dog-lovers, cat-lovers, those who struggled to make up their mind – and at the end of the month, the victor was announced.
The set (aka: the media stage)
We hosted our debate on the UK’s radio airwaves. With 90% of the UK population listening to the radio regularly (according to RAJAR), it was the obvious place to kick-off this important discussion.
Everyone in the UK was invited to vote and be part of the story. To get the voting started, Firefly recruited team captains and who better than TOWIE’s Amy Childs and MIC’s Gabriella Ellis?
Essex’s Amy loves dogs, especially her pampered pug Prince Childs – and has openly admitted she would rather lie in bed with her dog than her boyfriend. Chelsea’s Gabriella Ellis loves felines’ sultry independence and adores her two cats – Snowy and TC (Topcat).
The main production – the YummyPets radio day
Using their popularity, Amy and Gabriella opened the debate on live radio, fighting to convince the listeners why their favourite pet should win.
In an attempt to put off the public from voting cats, Amy told listeners that cats were ‘creepy’ and ‘sly’. Gabriella counter-argued, saying that dogs were ‘too high maintenance’, comparing them to toddlers.
Firefly scheduled interviews with the reality TV stars on over 60 radio stations including Capital Radio and BBC Essex.
Celebrity and lifestyle weekly magazine, Reveal, also wrote up an interview, stating that this summer is the time to settle the battle of dogs versus cats once and for all.
A winning production?
Tens of thousands of dog lovers and cat lovers visited the YummyPets website to register their vote.
The theme was a key factor in the success as it is a debate we’ve all encountered, with many of us leaning one way or the other.
The talent was also an essential element to getting the debate started. They were specifically chosen by Firefly to also play on the natural TOWIE versus Made in Chelsea rivalry.
And so, to answer the question of all questions, are we a nation of dog lovers or cats lovers? The answer is………drum roll please……DOGS!
Sorry feline fanatics, the canines clinched the top spot with 52% of the public vote. Close, but no catty cigar – it’s the dogs who can wag their way into the sunlight for the happy ending with this one.
This post was written by Charlotte.
YummyPets, the leading social network for pets, has appointed Firefly to handle its UK launch.
Already extremely popular in France, with over 150,000 French speaking members, 50,000 in the rest of the world and 600 brands and organisations interacting on the site, Firefly was tasked to introduce the site to passionate British pet owners.
Firefly developed a two-phased launch plan aimed to introduce the site in the UK, build awareness and drive sign-ups to the social network.
Firefly is carrying out all media outreach and communications during the launch period, which included a radio day promoting the YummyPets brand with celebrity backing from high profile reality TV stars – Amy Childs and Gabriella Ellis, in a TOWIE vs. Made in Chelsea stand-off.
YummyPets has been developed exclusively for those who have a love of animals, providing them with a platform that is fun and easy to interact with others on. It also gives users access to a range of useful and targeted pet services. These services include classified pet ads, missing pet notices, vet appointment reminders and memorial pages for loved and lost pets.
Mathieu Chollon, YummyPets co-founder said, “After our success in France, we highlighted the UK as being the next major market to kick-off international roll-out. We selected Firefly following a competitive pitch, because they have the knowledge, expertise and contacts we needed to bring YummyPets to the UK.
Matthieu Glayrouse, YummyPets co-founder said, “We’re hoping to see ourselves become the number one social network for pets in Britain and we’re confident Firefly can help us to achieve this.”
YummyPets launched in the UK in May and has already seen an explosive growth in numbers since being featured in publications such as Wired, Stylist, Huffington Post, The Independent, The Drum, Reveal.co.uk, Pet Gazette and Pocket-Lint.
InvestingZone, the UK’s first venture capital-backed equity platform for buying shares in unlisted companies, has appointed Firefly to handle its UK launch and ongoing communications programme. The appointment includes a broad spectrum of comms including messaging, planning, media relations, bloggers, digital marketing and social media campaigns.
Jean Miller, InvestingZone CEO said, “After looking at a number of agencies, all with different specialisms, we appointed Firefly because the agency had the best grasp of all our communications needs. With a new launch it is critical that we integrate all communications elements from digital marketing to media relations. We have confidence in Firefly to advise us and deliver.”
In the last month, Firefly has launched an entirely new share-buying platform, InvestingZone; and France’s number one social network for pets (social petwork), Yummypets into the UK.
Two very different brand propositions! But what united the client briefs, is the importance of PR in the brand launch stage. In each case, effective public relations was identified as crucial in both driving awareness and credibility, and indeed business results in the form of sign-ups. The Firefly team has been working on the launch campaigns throughout the last few months; with, in each case, PR results timed to hit in the last two weeks. Here’s a little more about what we did…
InvestingZone is a brand new internet platform, to open up investment opportunities in unlisted companies. The brand is right at the front of the evolving investment market, and wants to appeal to the next generation of investors.
The Firefly team was appointed to handle InvestingZone’s UK launch and ongoing PR communications programme, by Co-Founder Jean Miller – who came to the team for an integrated communications platform.
For the soft launch of InvestingZone, the Firefly team has set-up and created the content calendar for InvestingZone’s Twitter feed. We have also crafted and led digital marketing campaigns with The Motley Fool and FT Investors Chronicle.
This week, PR coverage went live. The Firefly team secured a launch exclusive in The Telegraph, followed up by Real Business; both carefully targeted for the quantity and quality of their readers. On Monday, the team will rack up its next coverage hit; with an international broadcast interview briefed, booked and ready to roll…
The Yummypets team had a hard act to follow: Firefly was briefed to launch Yummypets into the UK, following phenomenal success in France – its home market… Yummypets is only a year old (or seven in cat/dog years) in France; and currently has over 150,000 members, with 500 new pets joining every day and more than 600 brands and organisations interacting on the site. Yummypets founders Matt and Mat came to Firefly, looking for an agency that could help them globalise their social petwork concept.
Firefly announced the launch on Wired.co.uk on Thursday 23rd May, with a launch exclusive from Editor and cat-lover, Nate Lanxon. Blanket coverage appeared the following day, in heavy-hitting consumer publications including Stylist and Huffington Post. After the weekend, the print exclusive broke in targeted national publication The Independent, along with accompanying online coverage.
Firefly is results-driven, and focussed not only on coverage results – but on tangible results to our client’s business. Our Yummypets clients have reported increased site traffic and increased pet sign-up, on each day of phase I of the launch.
With phase II of the launch kicking in, in the middle of June, Firefly continues to build a nation of pet-lovers on a site that is tried-and-tested and loved by French pet-lovers.
You can find Fiona on Twitter and LinkedIn; her cat is on Yummypets.
We are very pleased to announce that Firefly has been shortlisted by The Digitals Awards in the ‘Charity and Not for Profit Category’ for our work with Give as you Live on The Give as you Live Christmas Campaign.
Celebrating excellence in digital marketing and ecommerce, the Digitals are widely regarded as the awards to win in the digital sector. With heavyweight backing from Econsultancy and new media age – and with a prestigious awards bash in Mayfair on June 27th – being shortlisted for The Digitals is a real coup!
For those of you who are not familiar with Give as you Live – where have you been? – a brief reminder:
Give as you Live enables shoppers to raise funds for their chosen charity when making an online purchase through any of the 2,300 affiliated retailers – at no extra cost – making it an absolute no brainer for charities and consumers alike. This revolution in online shopping and charitable giving has a strong social media presence, an excellent customer retention rate and, most importantly, the potential to raise £3.21 bn for charities in 2013.
The Charity & Not for Profit category promises to be a stiffly fought competition, with Give as you Live facing the likes of Save Our NHS, Wateraid’s ‘The Big Dig’ and the Department of Health’s ‘The Awkward Conversations Project’.
Meanwhile, in terms of PR, Firefly is going toe-to-toe with agencies including Responsys, The Good Agency and Wunderman London.
As both Firefly and Give as you Live continue to go from strength to strength, we will of course report back on our successes – long may they continue.
This post was written by Charlotte.
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