Abercrombie & Backlash

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media , March 19, 2008

It's still early to tell, but it does seem as though Abercrombie is taking the brunt of the beating on this one.

A psychiatrist quoted in the advocacy group's press release calls Abercrombie & Fitch a "corporate predator." The form letter that group wants supporters to sign reads, in part: "When it comes to sexualizing children, Abercrombie & Fitch is among the worst corporate offenders. These naming rights will entwine an institution of healing with a company whose advertising is notorious for undermining children's wellbeing and will promote the exploitive Abercrombie brand to children in a hospital setting."

So Abercrombie is predatory and exploitive, but the hospital is an institution of healing. And, after all, no one is asking Children's to give back the $10 million.

So what's the problem?

The problem is that the hospital never had control over Abercrombie's brand. And now it's lost control of its own image and message. The popular press and online chatters are not making the distinction that Abercrombie did not buy naming rights for $10 million, but rather the hospital named the trauma center after the company as a way to honor its generosity, as it does for all of its major donors.

It's a subtle but important distinction that's lost in the din of sensationalism, sex, and protests.

Take note: The deadline to throw your organization's hat into the ring for the HealthLeaders Media Top Leadership Teams, which honors the best in senior leadership teamwork at hospitals, health plans and medical group practices, is March 27. This year's conference will be held October 16-17 at The Drake Hotel in Chicago--our 2008 marketing awards will also be held in Chicago, on October 15. The deadline to submit entries for that program is May 30.
Gienna Shaw is an editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at gshaw@healthleadersmedia.com.

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