American Apparel’s brand promise was a unique mix of “clothes made in the USA” and porn. The company alleged it manufactured things in a responsible way. (Mass layoffs earlier this year of the illegal workers who made their product in the USA did away with that one.) AmAp’s approach to marketing is best described as an NC17 version of “nothing comes between me and my Calvin’s.”
For most businesses this would have just been another horrid example of sex sells. For AmAp it seems to have been a reflection of CEO Dov Charney’s “issues.” Charney, who took most of the pictures of company employees used in the ads, was the defendant in so many sex-harassment law suits that you couldn’t keep track of them.The wonderful practices didn’t stop there – no surprise. AmAp was also accused of firing employees who weren’t attractive enough and, Gawker reported that,
Perhaps this explains CEO Dov Charney’s support of immigration reform? In fairness to American Apparel, the company gained no financial advantage using the illegal workers. All workers are paid above minimum wage, receive subsidized health care and meals, and can participate in free English classes. The company has also long been on record for complaining how easy it is to fake the papers needed for employment.
Also in fairness, I would be remiss in not mentioning that Mr. Charney has more recently been in the news because he is being sued by Woody Allen over the use of an image from Annie Hall. The irony of these two “personal boundary impaired” men going to court is wonderful. Mr. Allen of course married his step daughter a few years ago. Mr. Charney, whose brand specializes in near-pornographic advertising, is frequently the photographer for these campaigns which use employees as models.
This provision is being pushed by the American steel industry — which is odd because the American steel industry is actually very competitive on the international market. Steel once defined the why the Rust Belt was called the Rust Belt. It had to entirely re-create itself with new technology and is now renowned for its quality/price.
Patriotic marketing efforts like this have been going on forever (the Brits tried a “buy Commonwealth” campaign during the last Great Depression and Detroit has tried it several times). They always fail because they try to fly in the face of the consumers’ best interests.
Either your product is competitive or it isn’t. If it is then an appeal like this isn’t needed (though it can’t hurt). If your product doesn’t offer a value the consumer wants (ie, it’s over priced or ugly or doesn’t work well) then adding patriotism to the mix isn’t going to do a damn bit of good.
American Apparel succeeds not because it’s made in the US but because they’ve combined design, quality and price in a way no one else has AND they’re putting themselves out there as a non-sweat-shop operation. Without the first three items the fourth wouldn’t matter in the least.