Christian at Ivy Style reports this week that LL Bean is trying to reach out to a more diverse demographic. The company’s new CEO, Steve Smith, is spearheading a marketing effort that includes black models and actors. An excerpt from The Boston Globe:
Smith, an Amherst native and the first non-Bean family member to hold the position of chief executive, joined L.L. Bean in 2015 after stints at AT&T, Hannaford, and both Walmart and Sam’s Club, where he worked to expand their reach in China. Since taking the helm of L.L. Bean, Smith has sought to use his global perspective to widen the audience for the brand. That means more diverse faces in its new ad campaigns.
L.L. Bean’s new approach was developed with the Portland-based marketing firm VIA, Smith said. The ads are more playful and feature families of more diverse backgrounds than the staid catalogues of yore. In one short spot, a bunch of 20-something skinny dippers strip off their Bean gear on a dock before splashing into a lake. In another, an African-American dad who is vacuuming turns the nozzle on his kids when they come inside covered in leaves.
Surprisingly, but also not that surprisingly, Ivy Style’s comment section is full of dudes up in arms. Apparently having black people in LL Bean’s ads means the company is losing its “authenticity” and “heritage.” One commenter says the ad is pandering to people with white guilt; another fears this will end with people wearing preppy belts as a form of “virtue signaling.” One entry, which seems to have been deleted, said this is part of the broader shift towards white genocide (a comment so absurd that it’s genuinely hard to tell if it was tongue-in-cheek). Of course, nevermind that black people have been living in New England since the founding of the United States.
If prep dies, it won’t be because of its association with non-white faces, but because of its association with dickheads.