Luckily for girls, there still is one protective layer between them and Abercrombie: their parents. Although girls act as influencers, who may start the consumer process for buying clothing, the end users, parents, still foot the bill for the purchase.
Unfortunately,young girls are incredibly influential over their parents. Traditionally speaking there are three types of parents when it comes to buying products for their children: the pushovers, the compromisers,and the naysayers. Of these, only the compromisers and naysayers have the control to say no to girls shopping at institutions they disapprove of, although protecting their child from any sexual advertising is nearly impossible.It is also the responsibility of these same adults to speak out against the practices of companies that exploit their children.
Other adults – the pushovers – feel differently and believe that what their child wants is what their child should get and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with promoting the kind of clothing Abercrombie sells to younger girls.
Although this is an ethical dilemma where it is impossible to say that there is one unequivocally correct way of responding to the situation, for a generally-conservative country like the U.S., Abercrombie should be wary of its marketing techniques. The potential backlash from parents can lead to children being forbidden to shop at Abercrombie.This means taking a large potential hit at products aimed at lower ages. But in a Catch-22 twist, this does not mean that Abercrombie has to walk away a loser.
Restrictive behavior on the part of parents can backfire as girls become teens, with the chance for girls to gain greater freedom and sense of rebelliousness. This means that whatever good intentions the parents may have had for their children, the same girls may end up shopping at Abercrombie anyway if given the opportunity. It is not hard to fathom a young girl asking to go over to a friend’s house knowing that they can get a ride from their friend’s parents to Abercrombie. Similarly, when she and her friends start getting their licenses, they might go to the store on their own.
The positive is that by the time girls can drive, they have begun the process of maturing mentally. However, this does not mean that they are any less exposed to the pressures of marketing that target their age group or that they are significantly less likely to be influenced by such marketing. Many adolescent girls are known to suffer from eating disorders or from the afflictions of wishing to lose weight, thus displaying the effect sexual marketing already has on them. It is because of how influential this kind of marketing is that the net effect on Abercrombie’s bottom line may hardly change at all or otherwise be positive.
I say it could be positive because of the health implications with girls hitting puberty at younger ages. If these girls are more likely to develop behavioral problems, then it is far more likely for these girls to want to shop at Abercrombie due to the desire to promote their sexuality or to rebel against their parents. Attempts by parents to direct this behavior would likely result in their child retaliating.
Abercrombie to the Rescue
After all that’s been stated thus far, it seems as if Abercrombie would have little incentive to make changes to their marketing schema or to do anything to resolve the situation. This may be true; nonetheless, Abercrombie can still invest in corporate social responsibility (CSR) by engaging in efforts to openly study and publish market research as to why girls are hitting puberty at younger ages. Such studies would help to discover unknown sources, or ascertain which of uncertain sources contribute to early puberty. Other companies and government institutions would have the ability to act against such factors, and parents could become more aware of what activities or products could do to their children.
In turn, Abercrombie would receive pertinent information relevant to the market segments they wish to target while simultaneously recognizing early puberty as a societal issue. Abercrombie could in such an instance continue to promote clothing such as padded bikinis in the spirit of serving the market’s needs properly. If a girl wishes to become more secure in her appearances by purchasing such products, then a need is being met. The girl would consider the need to be intrinsic as environmental factors affect the levels of estrogen in her developing body.
Then with the advent of changes to environmental factors – supposing such factors responsible for early puberty were recognized and addressed – Abercrombie would be prepared to cater to its new consumers, thereby displaying proper application of CSR.
Thoughts posed by the author:
a) How has the change in parents’ behaviors over the decades changed adolescent consumer behavior?
b) After reading my suggestions for Abercrombie, refer to the question in Part I: is your answer still the same? Why or why not, and what would you do?