The aim of this paper is to provide an insight into Hollister Co. ’s marketing communications and assess whether it successfully targets my demographic of young, male recent college graduates. The paper will first introduce Hollister and provide a brief company history as well as outlining the challenges in reaching out to consumers such as myself who differ from the brand’s intended targets. It will then segue to discussing Hollister’s position within the market and any outlying challenges the brand has navigated through.
Characteristics such as income, age, behaviors, emotions, occupation, and location will be addressed as they pertain to the company’s target audience. The paper will then recreate Hollister’s current marketing plan by addressing the marketing objectives, the mediums used to deliver the brand’s message, the brand’s messaging, it’s integration across channels and an evaluation of tactics, and finally a recommendation for the plan’s improvement in regards to my consumer niche. Company Background Hollister Co.
forms part of Abercrombie & Fitch, an American apparel corporation with an international outreach, established in an effort to cater to younger, less affluent consumers. Founded in 2001, Abercrombie developed Hollister as a concept brand for high school teenagers who could not afford the parent company’s offerings. According to Transworld, “over the first few years of the new millennium, growing interest in surfing helped perpetuate mainstream attention though Blue Crush and MTV’s Surf Girls” (Hunter); Hollister helped bring surfing into the mainstream, and popularize it, with its launch.
As with other branches, Abercrombie developed a storyline to give its brainchild an extensive history despite its 21st-century founding. The challenge for the company lies in its ability to reach out to older age segments such as college and graduate students who lie outside the company’s target age of 14 through 18 and who shop independently versus buying with their parents. Situational Analysis The company operates within the always-competitive teenage apparel market, with competitors such as American Eagle, PacSun, Gap, H&M, and Forever 21.
However, according to a recent survey by Piper Jaffray, Hollister ranked second among this age group in terms of preference. Hollister enjoys a stable market nationally and its parent company even reported a third-quarter increase in profit despite the sluggish economy. Despite this stability, Hollister has faced a few public relations crises such as the racist gestures made by employees of a recently opened outlet in South Korea and a struggle to develop in the European market. Hollister responded by firing these employees and closing underperforming stores in Great Britain.
Black Friday also helped push the company into the spotlight as teenagers (who formed the majority demographic of buyers) flocked to Hollister stores eager to buy discounted apparel. According to Reuters, apparel brands in general scored major victories during this shopping period and will continue to do so given the approaching of the holiday season. Target Audience(s) Hollister focuses on both male and female teenagers from ages 14 to 18 as its primary demographic target. The brand divides its products based on gender, i. e. ‘Dudes’ are for males and ‘Bettys’ are for females.
For the purposes of this discussion, however, the demographic consists of young men who have graduated college with part-time income. From my observations in New York City, the majority of Hollister consumers who both bought and wore company products were Caucasian although the brand’s popularity is increasing among African-Americans and Latinos; Abercrombie has developed diversity initiatives in its mission and seeks to hire minorities to its sales team. Hollister recognizes that this younger target audience is most likely to be unemployed or only working part-time, and thus prices its products lower than its parent company.
Parents who buy their children’s clothing upon their request also form a major source of revenue for the company. Geographically, Hollister attracts individuals who live in both urban areas (such as myself) but also in suburban areas that have close access to malls or similar large shopping centers. The audience most likely to buy Hollister products is typically popular, good-looking, and seeking to make a fashion statement since the brand prominently features its name on its apparel. In terms of behaviors, Hollister consumers shop together in groups and tend to dress similarly.
I differ from these psychographic and behavioral breakdowns because I prefer to purchase clothes alone without any input from friends. I am also less reliant on fashion trends and prefer to define my own style. As alternatives to Hollister, customers likely consider brands located in the surrounding areas such as American Eagle, Forever 21 or Urban Outfitters. The choice to purchase Hollister, however, involves buying into the company philosophy and history. Hollister, similar to other Abercrombie subsidiaries, devised a fictional company history to aid in its credibility and marketing.
Abercrombie designed a character, John Hollister, who founded the company in Southern California in 1922 after years of travelling the world. The brand also positioned itself as a sponsor of surfing contests and events in seaside California cities such as Santa Cruz and Huntington Beach. While these creative concepts remained fictitious, they became powerful assets in establishing and maintaining a relationship with its customers and helped the brand become “cool” in their eyes. Communications Objectives and Role of Communication
From my observations, Hollister’s communications objectives are to reach its established audience of high school students through a balanced mix of social media and walking self-marketing while abstaining from using traditional media outlets such as television commercials or print advertisements. They also desire for customers to switch from traditional surfing brands such as Quiksilver or Billabong. As such, Hollister differs strongly from other mainstream fashion brand names, as its products are made known through word of mouth.
The company is very much a 21st-century creation as successful use of technology has driven much of its growth. Hollister’s objective is specific because focuses squarely on its target audience and does not make headway into other consumer markets. The company ensures its goals are measurable because they frequently keep track of sales trends through the release of quarterly reports. They are achievable because of the company’s strong current position in the American apparel market compared to other leading brands.
Hollister also keeps its objectives realistic by recognizing that tastes and trends vary with the seasons—as such, it has diversified its current offerings beyond simply beachwear. Finally, the brand keeps its objectives time-bound by recognizing the fickle nature of the apparel industry and the shifting tastes of its target consumers. Another communications objective for Hollister is to bring a slice of Southern California to the shopper and differentiate the company from other apparel brands in terms of store design.
Hollister outfits its stores with fake palm trees, window shades, and cozy chairs—thus not resembling a store but instead a comfortable beach shack. The outward appearance suggests a calm and laidback shopping experience. However, once the customer enters the store, low lighting and loud music immediately surround the shopper; while appealing to some, the atmosphere turns off older customers such as college students and parents buying for their children. Frequent customer service mishaps have occurred as a result of this club-like store atmosphere.
The role of Hollister’s communication through its media mix is to engage its customers to address any concerns and present suggestions for future purchases. It also wants customers to feel proud of their purchase and inspire future visits to the store. Hollister recognizes that its consumers heavily use a variety of social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter and thus integrating its message across these channels. The brand’s investment in social media strategies allows it to save valuable advertising dollars because its followers in this media were attracted at no cost. Media Mix
The walking self-marketing, however, does successfully promote the brand. Everything owned by the company, including store bags, prominently features the brand name and is easily visible to those around the shopper. The brand also employs a powerful marketing tool in the form of employees dressed as lifeguards. These shirtless employees stand outside the store and direct lines, but their placement is also theatrical because they attract attention especially from younger women. During a visit to the Hollister store in Midtown, lines formed solely for the occasion to take a photo with a lifeguard, not to make a purchase.
Even if the customer did not buy a product, the brand imprinted its signature on them through this tactic. Hollister also markets itself heavily through promotion via social media networks such as Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. On Pinterest, the company highlights clothes or outfits that match or form interesting combinations, in an effort to entice users to purchase these items together. Hollister’s Facebook page takes a more interactive approach, encouraging customers to post their experiences from past purchases and any suggestions they may have.
The page also notifies fans of any upcoming discounts or sales, linking them directly to the Hollister website. Finally, the brand’s Twitter feed notifies its followers of upcoming events such as the company’s Black Friday event featuring reduced prices in stores, often through hourly updates. Messaging Hollister aims to provide a Southern California vibe to its apparel by frequently displaying images of beaches, surf contests, and seagulls in its clothing in contrast to Abercrombie’s preppy style; to put it succinctly, “they make stuff up because their customer buys into it” (Hunter).
The intent is to communicate a laidback, relaxed vibe and a hassle-free shopping experience. Recognizing that its consumers are young, Hollister keeps its messages free from corporate language, thus maintaining simplicity and avoiding misunderstanding due to jargon. By employing colloquial language, the brand is perceived as “young” by its consumers. Music also forms a major component of Hollister’s marketing as it compiles playlists of songs that are played in stores and posts them on its website—both benefitting customers but also up-and-coming artists who need the exposure.
The unpopular Hollister store environment, however, contradicts the brand’s messaging and illustrates inconsistency when all messaging vehicles are considered. Analysis of Tactics Hollister succeeds because its affordability and variety have remained constant throughout its decade-long existence. To continue progressing, however, the company must overhaul its store aesthetic because it contradicts the company’s mission. Hollister stores are loud, dark and frequently heavily packed with customers—a stark contrast to the relaxed California vibe it promotes.
Hollister’s social media endeavors, however, have become a positive touch point because they attract virtually all of the consumers the brand seeks to target. The company’s Club Cali program, which rewards members with free music downloads and participant-only discounts, further serves to foment a strong relationship between itself and its customers. Market or Corporate Driven? Hollister is both corporate and market driven because while it listens to its target audiences’ suggestions and desires through social media, it also seeks to improve internally by placing the brand name or logo on every piece of apparel that the company fabricates.
While Hollister must keep a finger on the pulse of the apparel industry, it also seeks to maintain its individuality by not allowing other stores to sell company-produced apparel or accessories. Recommendation In order to reach an older audience of college students and graduates, Hollister should modify its marketing tactics and take a more mature approach. Hollister representatives could visit university campuses during orientation weekends or during sporting events to market their products directly to this target audience.
Sales representatives could speak directly to students without having to worry about the constraints of being in a store or being under a time crunch. Companies that listen and respond to customer queries are more likely to succeed than those that ignore this feedback, whether positive or negative. College students would also appreciate if Hollister took a different approach to its store environment, which has become a turn-off to older customers who seek a calm and efficient shopping experience.
By turning on the lights and reducing the music levels, the shoppers would benefit by seeing the merchandise more clearly and be able to interact with sales representatives without shouting. Fewer customer service nightmares would ensue and both parties would benefit. Finally, Hollister might opt for advertising in traditional media outlets such as magazine pages or television commercials on channels, which college students typically watch such as ESPN or MTV. If cost is no object, Hollister could follow Red Bull’s lead by sponsoring sporting events that would further promulgate the brand name.
Sporting events have always remained popular among college students and often serve as talking points for conversations. This marketing avenue would remain consistent with the company philosophy of “walking self-marketing” in which the sight of the brand triggers an action in the viewer. Making inroads in a slightly new market niche may be difficult, but Hollister possesses the digital and marketing savvy to do so. Works Cited Hunter, Josh. How Hollister Co. Stole Surf: Eight Years After Abercrombie & Fitch Invaded The Surf Market, What Can be Done To Defend Against Them? Transworld Business. August 7, 2008. Web.