American Eagle’s fall denim campaign joins Old Navy, J. Crew and Dove in featuring ‘real people’ instead of celebs and supermodels.
American Eagle is taking authenticity to the next level.
The young adult denim brand has cast 12 real customers, including an American Eagle store employee, to model in its AE Ne(X)t Level Fall Jeans Campaign. It’s the latest step that AE and its sister brand Aerie have taken to promote body positivity, such as featuring unairbrushed models and serving a diverse range of body types with its “Made For You” denim guide to find the perfect pair of jeans for every shape.
This ongoing body positivity has helped sales figures: American Eagle Outfitters reported its 13th straight quarter of sales growth in May. Net revenue jumped 8% to a record $823 million. By brand, American Eagle’s sales increased 4% and Aerie’s sales soared 38%, which CEO Jay Schottenstein credited in part to “striking a real emotional connection with its expanding customer base” in the report. And the first decade of Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” saw sales almost double from $2.5 billion to $4 billion.
“There is this push for authenticity, which is just what consumers have said that they want,” Ad Age reporter Adrianne Pasquarelli told Moneyish. “And millennials are leading the push, because they are more about authenticity from brands and wanting brands to stand for something. Picture-perfect images aren’t what they want to see.”
American Eagle chose customers with “unique stories and styles” who responded to the brand’s social media casting call with the #AExME hashtag. They were shot and filmed in and around Nashville and Detroit sporting the back-to-school collection.
Chad Kessler, American Eagle’s global brand president, told Moneyish in an email that the new campaign came out of consumer research and feedback. “It’s what they want and are looking for – real images that they can relate to,” he said, adding that, “by nurturing the #AExME communities and giving our customers the encouragement to be their true selves, we are finding their brand loyalty results in positive business growth.”
American Eagle is just the latest brand using social realism, or casting regular-looking people and showing them in familiar situations and struggles.
J.Crew, which has seen sales fall for the past 13 quarters, is hustling to bring customers back — such as featuring seven “real people” in its 2017 holiday gift guide. And now the brand known for waifs modeling New England-style prep wear just launched its Universal Standard size-inclusive collection running from XXS to 5X last month. The plus-size fits and girl next door-looking models encourage customers who may never have considered shopping at J. Crew before to try the brand on for size — and it gives J. Crew a chance to capture some of the $21 billion women’s nonstandard-size clothing market (anything extra small and extra large), which Coresight Research says could grow to $60 billion by 2020.
Old Navy has eschewed high fashion for “Hi, Fashion” in its campaign of the same name, which traded in its previous celebrity spokesmodel Amy Schumer last year for spirited spots featuring remarkably unremarkable men, women and children. For the quarter that ended two months into the new marketing strategy last year, Old Navy saw an 8% spike in same-store sales, Pasquarelli reported for Ad Age, and net sales for the period were up 5% to $1.6 billion.
Dollar Shave Club rolled out its “Getting Ready” campaign on July 28, which featured men and women of all ages, sizes and skin tones grooming themselves in their bathrooms. While the actors in this spot were professionals, they include a man dressed in drag shaving his legs, some beer-bellied sports fans shaving their team’s logo into their chest hair, a woman shaving her head, and the CEO of DSC himself stuffing his underwear with toilet paper, for a relatable look at how we all get ready to face the day in our own way.
“In the past we have relied upon a more archetypal every man — we referred to it as ‘the DSC guy.ʼ However … with over 3 million members, DSC is comprised of a diverse cross-section of humanity. We realized there is no such thing as ‘the DSC guy,ʼ” the company’s internal creative agency told Moneyish in an email. “And so, we cast the net far and wide to find humans of all ages, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations.”
While it’s too soon to see the campaign’s influence on sales just yet, social media responses have been effusive: “This is the empowering video men have wanted. Hell yes,” wrote one, while another satisfied customer chimed in, “Great, great, great and proud to be a member. Cheers to whoever thought this up.”
And the Advertising Benchmark Index (ABX), which scores ad effectiveness, has found spots with real people score much higher than those featuring elite models. For example, a Saks Fifth Avenue ad showing a pair of super-thin models wearing designer Stella McCartney dresses scored 72 out of 150 points, while a JCPenney ad featuring a diverse group of people embodying different ages, ethnicities and dress sizes earned a 127.
“We’re talking maybe 50 points difference in ad effectiveness scores,” Angela Jeffrey, ABX vice president of brand management, told Moneyish. “That is huge, and really shows that people are fed up with the ‘perfect people’ bit.”
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