G1 – Individual Project: #AnEmbracingOpportunity by American Eagle Outfitters

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Hello Everyone! 🙂

It’s been a long journey since we all started out in COMM 346 and it has all culminated in this very project which I’ll be sharing about.

Btw, I hope that provocative image above did not scare you away, but rather, enticed you to want to know more about my project! Either ways, it achieved its purpose of inciting a reaction, which is precisely what a campaign should be all about!

Without further ado, let me bring to you the company, American Eagle Outfitters.

Introduction

American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) Inc. is an American clothing and accessories retailer with over 1,200 stores worldwide. Since it was founded in 1977, the brand has abided by its company’s culture and core values in shaping its aspirational yet easily accessible brand identity, in an effort to make the world a better place, alongside its customers.

Historically, AEO created a brand community based on ‘inclusionary marketing’, targeting people between the ages of 18-30 years old, independent of size and gender, earning it second spot in the list of “coolest” brands, just behind retail giant, Nike, according to Teen Research Unlimited in spring 2007 (Driscoll, 2007). Its blend of effective marketing campaigns alongside approachable pricing and heartwarming in-store staff has helped the brand to create a relatable and down-to-earth brand experience, which is accessible to all.

Research Question

So with this amount of good going for the brand, the question that lingers on in my mind is WHY is the brand not surpassing its competition (like F21, H&M and the likes). Moreover, as evinced from the social media listening which I conducted, the brand has a strong following and a favorable brand perception going for them.

Hence, I wanted to explore how AEO could leverage on its existing and extensive social media presence to create endearment and buzz for the brand so as to capitalize on the massive opportunities that abound in the Singapore market and stand out from the cluttered local retail scene. In doing so, an actionable strategy via the social media vehicle will be laid out so as to address the following broad ideas:

  • How is AEO making use of its social media platforms to sieve out what its target customers really want?
  • Building upon that collective knowledge, how can AEO foster a deeper relationship with its customers so as to develop brand retention and loyalty with this group of people?

Analysis & Findings 

Strengths

1.Crisis Management

What AEO has going for itself is the ability to manage a crisis, and work a negative event to its advantage. Its #AerieMAN campaign was one such example whereby it evolved into a disaster after it was announced to be a parody. What was to be a refreshing celebration of a man’s true self and an introduction into a new era of body positivity became a lackluster joke and this became the center of conversation among its fans on its various social media platforms.

However, AEO was active in its social media scanning and picked up these negative sentiments and responded almost immediately (on 1 Apr 2016) with a statement that was underscored with an apologetic tonality.

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Good job, AEO! (Y)

2.Wide Exposure

Riding on the popularity of its global social media pages, AEO’s local Instagram page also shares in this pie of fame. It has amassed a strong following of close to 3,000 followers within a short span of 47 weeks (when the account was first created) and has had about 1000 user-generated pictures posted and tagged with their exclusive #aeosg.

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Once again, a pat on their back!

Additionally, similar results could be found on their local Facebook page, with traffic of close to 300,000 users.

Shortfall

However, similar to any human being, a brand cannot be rid of flaws. And the same can be said for AEO. Despite a large following, AEO fails to engage its followers meaningfully by inviting comments, creating buzz-generating alternative content or featuring UGC.Furthermore, when offered an opportunity to engage in a collaboration, the brand cursorily passed it off with a generic response.

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What are you thinking AEO? Or why weren’t you??

And hence, this led me to my recommendations for the brand as it was apparent that the brand’s social media content strategies had significant gaps that had yet to be plugged.

Proposed Social Media Strategy (for a target audience between the ages of 18-30, no discrimination allowed!)

Message

In keeping with the overarching brand campaign objective of establishing brand resonance in the hearts and minds of its customers as well as positively influencing its brand identity, the following strategies deliver the key message via two prongs – a CSR-style and an influencer-based campaign. They focus on the brand’s promise of ‘celebrating real individuals’ wherever, whenever.

The campaign message will be communicated via the hashtag #AnEmbracingOpportunity (See what I did there? A.E.O?? Haha). It is also a collaboration with Support for Eating Disorders Singapore (SEDS), a support group for those coping with eating disorders, and all proceeds generated through this campaign will go to the organization to fund their operations.

Deployment

This campaign involves the brand’s social media followers posting videos of themselves in their truest, rawest state. By doing so, it challenges them to accept their flaws and who they really are, without any pretense or cover-ups. In this present age, with media’s distorted perception of beauty (hello, not everybody has to look like Kendall Jenner or Gigi Hadid?!) , this campaign stands out, as it is one that reverses this order of thinking and educates the brand community that it is perfectly fine to stand out, because there is beauty in being raw and untouched. (Of course, there will be prizes involved to entice these people into participating!)

Furthermore to enhance the reach of this campaign, AEO will invite local social media influencers such as Andrea Chong (241K Instagram followers), Christabel Chua (98.2K Instagram followers) and Dee Kosh (60.8K Instagram followers with a strong following for his YouTube channel) to participate and endorse this campaign.

Facebook and Instagram will be the primary platforms for this campaign (which was expounded in the report, but I’m sure all you tech-savvy millenials know why 😉 )

Conclusion 

The proposed campaign aims to associate AEO with compassion and authenticity, which is the driving philosophy of the brand, while engaging the brand community across a variety of platforms and encouraging them to create buzz-generating content for the brand. These strategies were specifically constructed to capitalize on each individual platform’s strengths and aimed at consolidating AEO’s brand identity as one that is authentic and relatable with its target audience. With that, it is of my hope that AEO is able to establish a long-lasting and endearing relationship with its customers.

So long, my friends of COMM346! I hope that this was worth your time and that it was an interesting read for all! 🙂 We all need a break from studying for exams don’t we?!

Cheers,

Alethea

P.S (Helloooooo SUMMER 😀 )