Hollister Targets Teens Where They Live: Their Phones

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Hollister debuts a video game.
Hollister debuts a video game. Credit: Hollister

Abercrombie & Fitch may finally be getting a clue about its core consumer. The teen-focused retailer recently debuted a mobile video game for its Hollister California-style clothing brand. The game activation, which was created with Rovio Entertainment and TreSensa, functions as an ad to connect the brand with loyal and potential shoppers.

"It keeps the brand breaking through in new and unique ways and helps us maintain our relevance day to day," said Will Smith, who joined the New Albany, Ohio-based retailer as chief marketing officer for its namesake, Hollister and kidswear brands six weeks ago. Mr. Smith formerly worked as CMO at Caleres, which was rebranded from Brown Shoe Co. "This comes at the customer in an unconventional way and that's part of our brand ethos of not being staid and traditional—we want to be young, credible and authentic." He's hoping the game will reach approximately 10 million teens in the Rovio network and lead to additional experiential opportunities.

The retro-style game, accessible on the Rovio network and through select Snapcodes on Snapchat, allows players to surf while collecting points like pizza and avoiding shark obstacles. Hollister is promoting the effort through social media such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat as well as in select stores.

Abercrombie, a 125-year-old brand, could use customer connections now more than ever. The chain, which recently announced it will close another 60 stores in 2017, missed analyst expectations for its fourth-quarter earnings, which were reported earlier this month. The company's same-store sales for the period fell 5%, though Hollister's same-store sales were up 1%. Abercrombie reported sales of $1.04 billion, a 5% drop from the year-earlier period, and net income of $48.8 million, down from $57.7 million last year. The retailer, whose former controversial CEO Mike Jeffries departed in 2014, has been in a turnaround phase to repair its image from one of shirtless, sexy bros to a more authentic, heritage-inspired style. The company recently promoted top merchant Fran Horowitz to the CEO role.

While the new video game may help spread the word to new customers, such efforts rarely translate to huge success, said Julie Ask, VP-principal analyst at Forrester Research. She said success will depend on the quality of the game, engagement tactics like rewards and levels, how Hollister promotes the game, and how they draw consumers back in after playing.

"If they get a hundred thousand downloads, they should be thrilled," she said.

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