In Fashion Advertising, Bitchy Works -- Just Take Piperlime's Jihad Against Schlubs

Last Updated Aug 17, 2010 9:07 PM EDT

The Gap (GPS)'s dressy new brand Piperlime took some heat from Ad Age and on Facebook this week for being too much like a "mean girl" in its ads. Here's a sample tagline: "If the frienemy sees you out in public in your TV-watching clothes, the frienemy wins."

While the effect is indeed bitchy, and would seem to be sneering at Gap's regular fare of sweats and jeans, this is exactly what Piperlime needs. In the self-harming world of fashion, alienation actually drives sales. Women don't want fashion to be their friend, they want it to be "aspirational," which is the industry's term for making women hate themselves so that they'll buy clothes as a cure. That's why ad agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners' Piperlime campaign is genius.

While Age's story leads with a couple of whiners complaining about Piperlime's tone (see the Aug. 13 posts on Piperlime's Facebook page), look at the reaction in the comments section:
Kari-Lynn: There is something to be said about weeding out undesirables from your customer pool, too. it's better to have a strong customer following who clearly tell you what they want from your brand than a ton of people who provide you with muddy information.
Piperlime brand manager Jennifer Gosselin admits the campaign may alienate some customers but is generally "thrilled" with the reaction. The reaction on Twitter is positive. People love Piperlime's jihad against schlubbery:


Making women uncomfortable about not looking good is what drives sales in the apparel business. That's why American Apparel (APP) was so successful using porn stars in its older advertising (and why no one is interested in its new line of fully dressed preppy items). This is why ads with thin models in make women more likely to buy things than ads with realistic women in them.

And this is why Gap previously gave up catering to middle-aged women in 2007 when those women turned up their noses at the idea in favor of brands targeting 22-year-olds.

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