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The Fake Tommy Hilfiger Family -- An Idea That's Bound to Backfire

Have you encountered the media darlings of the moment? They're the fake Tommy Hilfiger family. But Hilfiger is overplaying its faux family, and a backlash is in the offing.

In a $10 million return to television advertising, the Hilfiger brand has chosen to represent itself as a pretend family of mostly young hipsters.

It's cute for now, as the mostly young, white Hilfigers -- one even sort of resembles actual Tommy Hilfiger, but isn't -- celebrate a holiday meal in a field together. It's all snowless holiday cheer and chaos, as the "family" sets the table with Hilfiger plaids. Then the meal disintegrates when the family's luxury car drives away and knocks everything over (in some spots the dog's behind the wheel, in others, one young "daughter").

So far the ad has been rotisseried in social media mostly for using the too-popular Vampire Weekend song, Holiday, which is also currently in a Honda (HMC) ad. But this campaign has bigger problems ahead.

Hilfiger is going overboard with its mock family -- its Web site invites viewers to "meet the Hilfigers," as does its Facebook page (more than 640,000 like it). On Facebook, a special "meet the Hilfigers" clip that isn't part of the TV ad campaign gives more details about the "family," which features father "Bernard," mom "Lea," socialite and fashionista daughter "Jacquelyn," aspiring-actor "Noah," and youngest daughter "Chloe."

The fake Hilfigers leave messages on Facebook, too -- "Happy Thanksgiving from the Hilfigers," reads a recent one. Initially, this has generated some buzz.

But it's a mismatch to take the holiday that's all about finally unplugging and spending some quality time with our real families and advertise during it using a patently, obviously fake family. And then to go on with the ruse, shoving the pretend Tommy Hilfigers in customers' faces at every turn.

In social media, this is the age of authenticity. At some point, the mob is going to turn on the pretend Hilfiger family, and then they'd better high-tail it to their luxury sedan and out of sight.

"It's a paradox of today's Experience Economy: the more contrived the world seems, the more we demand what's real," write Joe Pine and James Gilmore, authors of Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want.
It's one thing to show a TV ad with a fake family, and leave it at that. We see that all the time with apparel brands. Look for the fake Hilfigers to be rotisseried like holiday turkeys once the digerati tire of them.

Real Tommy Hilfiger photo via Flickr user The Danish Design School
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