If you walk into French Connection, awkwardly avoid eye contact with the salespeople, check out prices on a few cute but not $159-cute dresses, and then slink out, you’re evidently not alone. The French Connection Group isn’t doing well, and the FCUK shirts that were once so clever, but now just stale, aren’t enough to save them. The company just announced plans to close all but 6 of its 23 U.S. stores and sell off the Nicole Farhi brand.
In fact, the trouble began with the FCUK campaign, which became a hit when it launched in 1997. French Connection executives didn’t do a whole lot of thinking, at the time, beyond FCUK, even though — like so many gimmicks (the Geiko gecko, the creepy wind-up doll in Pristiq ads, any celebrity in a Proactiv commercial) — it was bound to get old sooner than later.
From The Wall Street Journal.
“At some point we became a little complacent,” says Roy Naismith, French Connection’s finance director. “With the FCUK branding itself, it was time to move on.”
In 2006, after suffering significant sales declines, the company tried to win back shoppers with a controversial ad campaign featuring two women fighting viciously and then kissing. Though this sort of concept might sell beer to dudes who don’t know that women who hate each other enough to physically fight never actually end up kissing, is not the kind of thing likely to convince many women to spend $150 on a sweet poplin dress.
The Journal calls French Connection’s new campaign “the most far-reaching revamp of its brand in more than a decade.” The film noir-inspired ads portray upscale ladies in cocktail dresses and classic trenches, plastered with phrases like “She is knowing we are looking,” which leaves us to wonder if, in these dire times, they outsourced the copywriting to India.