A Commitment to Core Brand Values Helps Aerie Prosper
In a presentation at Shoptalk this week in Las Vegas, Jennifer Foyle, global brand president of Aerie, a lingerie and apparel retailer (and sister brand of American Eagle Outfitters), detailed how a commitment to the company's core values — body positivity, empowerment and self-love — have helped spur growth.
Four years ago Aerie made a marketing decision that would help differentiate itself in the crowded teen apparel space: the brand opted NOT to airbrush or retouch photos of models wearing its clothing.
“Why cover up the beauty of these models,” said Foyle. “We’re celebrating being real.”
Foyle noted that the initial decision to not airbrush its product models was a marketing initiative. Since then, it has become so much more.
“When we started, the no airbrushing was more of marketing campaign. Now it’s our DNA. We’re living #AerieREAL. It's since then gone from a marketing campaign to part of the company culture.”
Building a Brand Community
Aerie is continually listening and engaging its customers — most often on social media, as one would expect for a brand targeted to Gen Z and millennials. What it has learned is that customers want to represent the brand and have an emotional connection with it. Aerie is helping to make that happen in several different channels, including in its stores, through live events, and on social media and other digital channels.
“Celebrate the community,” Foyle said. “We bring in new customers every day that represent the brand. You can’t create a brand unless you listen to your customers. The power of community has been amazing. For example, it has led to new product categories for us, and we learned that we needed to expand our sizes by listening to our customers.”
Foyle talked about the need for Aerie’s brick-and-mortar stores to make girls feel creative and happy. The company’s stores feature fitting rooms with curtains that celebrate the customer with positive messaging, as well as Instagram walls where girls can post pictures of themselves. Furthermore, Aerie hosts “Real Talk” sessions in its stores, when girls can come in and discuss real-world issues that are important to them.
In addition to what it's doing in-store, Aerie has taken its show on the road, setting up pop-up shops and hosting events on college campuses across the country. And Foyle specifically called out a yoga event that the brand hosted in the middle of Times Square last summer as an example of Aerie living and celebrating with its customers.
Lastly, Aerie is wisely leveraging its highly social customer base to collect user-generated content and empower brand influencers. For example, Aerie posts Instagram photos of its customers wearing its products on its homepage as well as in its storefront windows.
“Our customers are really our role models, and they live the brand for us,” noted Foyle.