American Appeal Advertising

Free «American Appeal Advertising» Essay Sample

Introduction

Creating a successful marketing campaign is difficult because of many reasons. Firstly, as the market grows, the competition grows, and it becomes more difficult to make one’s product or service stand out from the others and appeal to the target audience. Secondly, customers get used to constant marketing and advertisements surrounding them from TV-commercials and big boards on the streets to emails and social network ads. Thirdly, due to globalization, marketing trends are changing rapidly, and it is mandatory to keep up with them otherwise one’s project or organization will not be able to compete with the rivals and attract the needed amount of consumers. Finally, the companies meet constant financial challenges due to the economic crisis and business shifts, so they have to promote themselves in relatively difficult conditions. That is the reason the marketing campaign has higher chances of going unnoticed or not receiving the expected results and feedback.

One of the tools some companies use for marketing campaigns is controversial ads (Waller 2005). They enable the companies to draw attention to the products they sell and turn the campaign into the topic that is widely discussed in the media and society in general (Basu, Basu & Batra 1995). This is the strategy that has been widely practiced by American Apparel. This company sells clothes that are manufactured and designed in the United States, and it is oriented to the American market. The company has attracted a lot of attention with its controversial marketing campaigns with a 62-year old model or when it used mannequins with pubic hair in its stores; and the chain also used a Hasidic man to advertise itself which led to further controversies, too (Strochlic 2013). The latest controversy the company created was a result of its 2014-marketing campaign which featured a young topless Bangladeshi woman. The advertisement attracted wide media attention and although it met a lot of criticism as a result, it enabled the company to gain financial profits and emphasize the important ideas strengthening its brand image.

Campaign Description

The campaign is based on the picture of a young woman. She stands with her top naked. The woman is of Bangladeshi descent, and across her chest, there is a statement: “Made in Bangladesh”. The company released an explanation of what the ad was supposed to mean. The description made by the company states that the girl on the picture is Maks. Maks had been working for American Apparel for four years at that moment, and she volunteered to participate in the campaign. The description also stated that Maks was born in Bangladesh, but when she was four years old, she moved to California with her family. There, she tried to follow Islam because it was her parents’ religion, but then she realized she was not religious. As a result, she decided to stop her Muslim practice. The description says that Maks does not identify with a particular nation and does not need a particular culture to shape her or tell her what she has to do (Sherman 2014). Thus, she combines both cultures and tries to figure out her personality individually.

In the end of the description, it is said that Maks wears High Waist Jeans that were made by 23 American workers in Los Angeles (Nelson 2014). The description adds that the workers received just payment and social security package for their work (Cunningham 2014).

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The campaign caused a lot of controversy because it received both criticism and appraisal. The criticism comes because of the statement “Made in Bangladesh”. Although the woman does not identify with her Bangladeshi background, she still appeals to large audiences of Muslim women, and for them, showing their bodies is a sin. Therefore, the idea of portraying a lapsed half-naked Muslim woman may be offensive to the believers who view such a behavior as an insult to their religion. Although feminism is encouraged in some of the Islamic countries, the photo goes far beyond its ideas there; besides, taking into consideration the statement about being made in Bangladesh, people may be confused about the general meaning of the campaign. They may think that the model represents Bangladeshi women and appeals to them; and since the dominant religion in Bangladesh is Islam, it may contradict the main beliefs in the country.

Another controversy rises from the description the company provided. It states that Maks does not identify with a particular nation, so the statement that she was made in Bangladesh appeared as hypocrisy to some people because it was a direct appeal to a certain nation.

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Nevertheless, the marketing campaign received a lot of appraisal, too. American Apparel is well-known because it does not have sweatshops overseas unlike other franchises that use cheap working force in undeveloped countries. Having sweatshops is economically profitable, but the working conditions there are very bad, and the wages are low. Thus, American Apparel wanted to emphasize the fact that it does not use cheap labor and manufactures its products in the United States. It was a response to 2013 crisis that took place in Bangladesh when 1,000 employees of American-based clothes companies were killed (Cunningham 2014). Therefore, it was an effective marketing strategy that enabled the company to separate from the rest of the companies and emphasize the importance of the brand image.

Marketing Strategy

American Apparel’s marketing strategy was to position itself as different and patriotic. It stated that it was not like other companies that were making money paying little salaries to people in undeveloped countries, but instead, operated in the US providing Americans with jobs and strengthening American economy. The company also stated that it did not want to follow global trends and have sweatshops. The fact that the Bangladeshi girl stands there without her top is a symbol of the company that does not use cheap working force and is against poor working conditions (Sherman 2014).

The company used an effective marketing strategy because it was a timely response to the events that attracted a worldwide attention (Mitchell 2002). Henceforth, the company’s marketing strategy was to be different and better. Dov Charney, who was the company’s CEO at that time, also issued a statement that the company condemns working conditions in Bangladesh and offers much better conditions for its workers in the United States (Sherman 2014). It is connected with the company’s nickname of being “sweatshop-free” because it worked only with local manufacturers and employees and paid them fifty times more than its rivals paid the workers in Bangladesh or other countries (Cunningham 2014).

Henceforth, when putting “Made in Bangladesh” on the model’s chest, the company actually strengthened the point that everything was “Made in America”. It was a good strategy to attract local customers, increase patriotism, and portray itself as the one doing business without hypocrisy. It was also a way to reach out to the customers. The brand portrayed itself as the one that was close and could be related to its customers because it wanted to do business honestly, and did not want to use unfair techniques or unjust methods. Although the company could have followed the examples of its rivals and started production in less developed countries, it did not do it, so the slogan was a good way to remind about it. The experts pointed out that this way American Apparel would have saved large sums and would have been able to make higher profits, and the fact that the company decided not to do it despite possible financial benefits was a good topic for commercial promotion. As a result, the overall controversy the company received was actually a beneficial strategy because it enabled the business owners to strengthen their brand name.

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Financial Implications and Impact

When analyzing American Apparel’s ad, it is important to focus on its current economic situation and the way the commercial marketing strategy affected it. In 2009, the company fired 1,800 employees after the legal problems, and it experienced constant financial losses (Li, Hsu, & Chang 2014). This is a general tendency that is common for the entire country because the amount of production in the country dropped significantly, and if the companies did not start the production overseas, they would be losing more money, too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the amount of “apparel manufacturing establishments nationwide dropped nearly in half to 7,075” starting from 2003 (Li, Hsu, & Chang 2014). In general, the companies had to fire around 800 thousand workers within twenty years which proves the decreasing amount of employees needed for this industry in the United States (Li, Hsu, & Chang 2014). The current trend is that 2.5% of the clothes people buy in the country are produced here, and the rest of the products are made outside the US, and then, are transported back to the country (Li, Hsu, & Chang 2014). For example, in 1991, this number was very different, with 56% of clothes sold in the United States were made in America (Li, Hsu, & Chang 2014). Thus, the current situation in the clothing industry shows the globalization tendencies the companies follow when they open factories overseas and cut production in the US because they would have to pay more to American workers. That is why it is essential that the controversy regarding the ad rose. In the description, the company did not bring the economic and production topics up, so the controversy enabled the company to emphasize it one more time. Due to the media coverage, the larger audience learned that the company employed around 5,000 of American workers and produced around 200,000 clothing products every day; and the organization also paid $12 per hour to a worker comparing to $68 of monthly salary for a Bangladeshi worker overseas (Li, Hsu, & Chang 2014). As a result, the company has been losing significant sums, for example $310 million, starting from 2009 and holding a $200 million debt (Macke 2014). The company’s stock had been falling before the ad was released, and it lost around 50% in price during the previous year (Freeburn 2014). Despite the financial challenges, the marketing strategy was successful for the company because it enabled the organization to decrease its financial losses and make more money in the quarter that followed the advertising. Thanks to effective leadership and widely recognized media strategy, “the company’s wholesale business … performed the best, with a 9 percent increase in net sales” (Harris 2014). In general, the company strengthened its financial position in 2014 comparing to 2013 because in 2013 it closed its stock with less than 50 cents, and in 2014 it was 94 cents (Harris 2014). In comparison, today the company’s stock opened with $0.88 cent (American Apparel 2015); and the price remained the same for a long period of time this year (American Apparel Inc 2015). Although the company still faces financial difficulties, it was able to stabilize the situation and increase the sales due to successful marketing strategy (American Apparel Inc (APP:NYSE Amex) 2015).

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The financial results show the effectiveness of the marketing strategy because it played an important role in decreasing the financial losses and helping the company make some profits after the ad was released. The controversy is the main cause for this situation because it enabled the company to attract more attention and the ad was viewed by more people. Henceforth, one can say that it was a well-calculated marketing decision since it enabled the company to increase both its public recognition and financial situation.

The advertisement had a big impact on society and the customers. In regard to clients, it affected their perception of clothing manufacturing industry in general. The advertisement attracted attention to the issue of moving the companies overseas and made them recognize the problem. As most of the clothes in the US are made outside the country, and the consumers rarely pay attention to the country of production, the advertisement showed its importance and the necessity to recognize the national producer.

Besides, the controversy and overall coverage of the issue enabled businesses and customers to recognize the need to strengthen the national economy and provide locals with job opportunities so that they were able to make money out of clothes manufacturing. It strengthened the idea that the producers “should instead stay to help boost the local economy and provide jobs” (Bhasin 2013) as a major theme American Apparel has been speaking about for a long period of time. 

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Social Implications

The clients also developed new ideas regarding national and ethical perception because the advertisement focused on the issue of multiculturalism and identity. The fact that the model is Muslim enabled the customers to approach national identification issue from another perspective. Although some representatives of religious communities criticized the nakedness of the model’s body, it could be viewed as a strong personal statement about being able to present one’s body in the way the person wants without limiting oneself to cultural or religious aspects. The statement released by the company, said that it respected human body, and the advertisement was published in order to praise women and their choices (Sherman 2014). One can say that the advertisement enabled a new direction in a media communication because it provided the public with an opportunity to evaluate the ad and determine whether it was proper or offensive. From one perspective, it is true that it went against the basic doctrines of Islam, and since it appealed to the Islamic country as a country of origin, it could be viewed as offensive. On the other hand, it did not appeal to religion in general; quite the opposite, it tried to reduce the importance of religious boundaries and cultural characteristics, and it was also a good play on words taking into consideration the absence of sweetshops and model’s background.

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It is important to point out a special characteristic of this marketing campaign which is Cause-Related Marketing (Berglind & Nakata 2005). Although the company did not donate or implement any social projects, the overall statement appeared as something related to a serious social problem. As a result, people viewed it as an ability to support a local producer, and they also approached it as a way to express their dissatisfaction with the working conditions abroad. “Made in Bangladesh” was a statement that promoted two very different ideas at the same time; from one perspective, it was a way to encourage people to buy locally and support national businesses and employees, and from the other perspective, it was a tool to attract attention to a big problem of cheap labor force when the organizations used people with lower incomes for making great profits.

This marketing campaign can be used as an effective example of the strategy that enables the company to increase its brand awareness, improve the reputation, increase retail merchandise activity, develop loyalty among customers and strengthen the relationships with the clients (Pracejus & Olsen 2004). It shows the current trends in the marketing like the necessity to attract people’s attention to a particular problem while selling the product; since the competition is so fierce that it is difficult to make the customers eager to buy a particular item if it is not different from others or does not raise an important issue. That is the reason why it is essential to make every product stand out from the others, so it was an influential strategy to use a controversy.

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The campaign shows that the society wants not just a mere product, but a story that goes along with it; in other words, the customers want to benefit from buying the product by getting a new item and feeling they made a contribution. Since most companies compete with each other manufacturing very similar products, controversies and media coverage enable the competitors to perform better than the rivals and improve the financial situation which can be seen with American Apparel.

The case is also practical when analyzing current marketing strategies because it shows the importance of the reputation nowadays; and it also shows the necessity to follow the trends and tendencies as well as set the new ones (Pracejus & Olsen 2004). The company managed to develop its reputation thanks to its marketing campaigns, and it could also use popular trends and important ideas that dominated there. For instance, it used the trend towards globalism and multiculturalism in order to attract attention to its product; and it was a way to strengthen the reputation in a situation when the company was competing with other organizations selling the same items. The marketing strategy the company used also demonstrated the effectiveness of controversies in modern marketing because it was one of the most effective ways to attract wider media coverage without spending more finances on promotion involving different parties and appealing to various audiences.

Conclusion

Controversies as a marketing strategy can also lead to some tensions within the company, and they do not always bring the desired results (Berglind & Nakata 2005). American Apparel had been experimenting with different advertising before which caused stir and criticisms; and the unresolved conflicts within the company led to the change in management since the company got a new CEO and fired the previous CEO who was also its founder (Lutz 2014). Besides, the former CEO owns 44% shares of the company (Paton & Barrett 2014). This shows that the effective marketing strategy cannot solve all of the company’s problems if they have been influencing the organization’s performance for years, but it can improve its position, bring financial benefits, and enable the company to move in a more successful direction.

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