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Are the "Rules" of Marketing Just Suggestions?

posted by LIM College staff Staff Profiles Desktops & Documents lola.rephann My Documents website BLOGS Hubspot Blogs Short Takes Kristen AndersenThroughout my studies at LIM College, as well as in a marketing class in high school, we were told in a serious tone that certain marketing strategies are required for a retailer to be successful. From my four years at Abercrombie and Fitch, however, I can tell you firsthand that  none of the “essential” strategies are used by that company and they still manage to be a top retailer. 

Abercrombie does not supply customers with any type of coupon. The firm’s credit cards offer no perks. None of the store locations offer discounts or special events.  Customers complain about the lack of events more than any of the other unusual business methods, but for some reason they keep coming back nevertheless.

The company also does not bother to advertise in magazines, newspapers, or on TV. They rely on word of mouth and their employees to do the advertising for them.  A few years back, they sent out their first look book. Then they realized that the return on investment was not worthwhile. Customers see new merchandize one way only—by signing up to receive emails.

Creating a related higher-end or discount brand is another venerated marketing “rule.” But the Ruehl brand that Abercrombie launched flopped. Customers did not want to pay an average of $20 more for merchandise identical to what they could buy under the original brand.

Although breaking all the “rules” did work for Abercrombie, I would not recommend following in their footsteps if you plan to own your own business some day. You may definitely need advertising, coupons, events, or a sister brand.

As students of the industry, and future leaders, we might wonder, how strong the “rules” are. What data supports their applicability to a particular situation? If we are going to make innovations in the industry, there are a lot of assumptions we can question, and many sources of information and research we can use in developing our own business practices. Teaching what has worked before is worthwhile, but shouldn’t a bit more thought go into exploring exceptions, counter-examples, and how the “rules” came to seem carved in stone? Have you noticed some other theories and rules of marketing that don't seem to be true to the real world?

-- Kristen Anderson

Further Reading

Abercrombie and Fitch website

A site about marketing strategy and a list of reports about Abercrombie

Wall Street Journalarticle about how Abercrombie repositioned and reoriented sales staff

Topics: fashion marketing