While the parameters of this loosely defined cyberworld are still unclear, the details of the retailer’s festivities are less opaque. The AE’s brand’s spring campaign, entitled “Members Always,” is set in a digital country club via multiple platforms.
The itinerary includes dressing avatars in digital fashion by way of Roblox; a tennis-themed augmented reality experience inside the Snapchat app, as well as Snap codes on physical stores, which offers users an added virtual experience; a hashtag challenge and AE-branded filters in TikTok; and a series of AE Instagram Lives sessions where fans of the brand can interact with campaign cast members.
“We’re a multi-metaverse threat this spring season,” Craig Brommers, chief marketing officer at American Eagle Outfitters, told WWD in an exclusive interview. “American Eagle was meta before the metaverse actually existed,” he added, referring to the brand’s previous adventures with Snapchat augmented reality and virtual pop-up shops.
In fact, the American Eagle brand sold more than $2 million worth of merchandise through the Snapchat holiday 2020 pop-up alone, while also generating roughly 50 million page views. That’s just a fraction of the $1.27 billion in total revenues that parent company American Eagle Outfitters — which also includes the Aerie, Offline, Todd Snyder and Unsubscribed brands — logged last quarter. But both the holiday 2020 and last year’s spring Snapchat x AE campaigns were impressive nonetheless, with the latter registering roughly $760,000 in sales and a click-through rate that was 300 percent higher than Snapchat’s baseline measurement rate.
American Eagle’s spring 2022 campaign, Brommers continued, “rests on a preppy, country club vibe with an AE edge. We’re kind of reinterpreting preppy, influencer styles of the past, but in a way that feels very relevant to today’s kids. And instead of the normal country club shtick, which is members only, for the American Eagle brand, it’s ‘Members Always.’ Everyone is welcome. No matter who you are: your background, your style, your passion.”
Case in point, the campaign, which launches Wednesday, has a wide range of cast members who will be participating in events across multiple platforms. The guest list includes professional tennis player Coco Gauff; actor and singer Joshua Bassett; singer, songwriter Maia, who is also known professionally as Mxmtoon, and actors Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Michael Evans Behling and Madelyn Cline.
“I am always excited to speak with fans,” said Cline, who stars in the Netflix drama series “Outer Banks.” “And I’m really excited to go on Instagram Live and talk to the fans about the brand and talk to them about what styles they love and what fashions they love; what they love about new trends this year and how they’re going to style their clothes for American Eagle and just really, I don’t know, just get a little bit more personal with their experiences.”
The Insta Live series kicks off March 2 at 3 p.m. EST in American Eagle’s Instagram with Gauff and Bassett. But Brommers said the brand will roll out more of these sessions throughout the season, likely with two cast members each. He added that cast members will answer user questions from the brand’s DMs.
American Eagle is joining a growing list of retailers that are entering the metaverse by way of Roblox. In the case of American Eagle, consumers (or their avatars) can now engage with the AE brand in Roblox’s AE Land, where they can unlock limited-edition AE-brand digital fashions. Or, through Snapchat, by clicking on the Snap code (similar to a QR code), which will be located on store windows in the real world. Once activated, users can experience a campaign-themed augmented reality on their phones.
“We know how much Gen Z wants to get out into physical stores,” Brommers said. “We’re seeing this amazing resurgence of store traffic. So we wanted to make sure we created something that was fun and unique to that physical store.”
“But they have a crop to them. So a little bit more youthful,” he said. “We’re basically inspired by spring break.”
Cline doesn’t have Snapchat, nor does she have an avatar to dress in Roblox. But she said she’ll be sure to outfit her future avatar self in AE-branded digital apparel when she gets one. “Obviously,” she said. “I haven’t really gone too deep into the metaverse, actually.”
Offline she has a soft spot for American Eagle’s oversized flannels and tank tops.
“They pair really well with low-rise jeans,” said Cline, who’s been shopping at the brand since middle school. “[They’re] super, like, 2000, and I really, really dig that style.” The Los Angeles resident, who is on location in South Carolina shooting “Outer Banks,” added that she’s a big fan of thrifting.
“I found this vintage little Chanel chain belt, which I think would pair really, really well with some low-rise jeans, maybe even some flares,” she said.
Jennifer Foyle, executive creative director of both the AE and Aerie brands, added that the entire spring collection “inspires customers to show up to be themselves. Coco, Joshua, Madelyn, Maitreyi, Michael and mxmtoon share a unique point of view on today’s world that empowers others to believe in the limitless possibilities of tomorrow.”
In addition to the campaign, the AE brand will donate $200,000 by way of 20 grants to various local organizations throughout the nation. Cast members will also have the chance to donate funds to charities of their choice, in addition to helping select the grant recipients.
Brommers added that the brand’s play in the metaverse isn’t so much a revenue-generating strategy as it is meant to create greater brand awareness, especially among Gen Zers.
“American Eagle is a youth culture brand,” he explained. “Ninety percent of our customers aged 15 to 25 open Snapchat on a daily basis. This [technology] is something that is heavily in use for our customer and this will be very intuitive to them and a lot of fun for them as well.”