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Music first (and loud), merchandise second: Abercrombie & Fitch

Abercrombie & Fitch is a fashion brand that caters to young people aged 15-28 years. Music is an integral part of their brand strategy, clearly stated in their statement: Music First, Merchandise Second.

“Our brand music strategy is to turn away from mainstream material heard on the radio. We select music by artists who might be known to college student but have not yet gone mainstream.”

To choose to play music consumers probably like, but do not always know, can create curiosity about the brand and it also creates a sense of belonging.

Something else that characterizes Abercrombie & Fitch is that they play their music loud. The aim of the loud music is to make consumers who do not belong to the target group unwilling to enter their stores. Thornton (2007) studied an Abercrombie & Fitch store in downtown Portland (Oregon, USA) and witnessed how many customers chose to walk out of the store, or in general refused to go into it, because of the high volume. The volume measured 90 dB on their sound meter and as much as 98 dB as they approached the speakers.

A sense of belonging

But the same thing that keeps some customers away appeals to other customers. Abercrombie and Fitch use a high volume to create a club feeling and to attract their target audience. One article in The New York Times (New York Times, 2012) describes how a girl in her early teens goes shopping at an Abercrombie & Fitch store with her mother and grandmother. The volume and the music selection affected the elderly to the point that they stated that ten minutes at the store seemed like an hour. The frustrated grandmother told the reporter: “I can not concentrate. I cannot focus on what I want to buy because of the noise. I want to say to her, ‘Right Find Something, I’ll buy anything, let’s just get out!’ ” The frustrated grandmother’s statement is confirmed by scientific studies (Garlin & Owen, 2006) that show that customers in stores with loud music stay a shorter time.


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