How Aerie’s Content Marketing Campaign is Putting Power & Realness Back to the Customer

American Eagle was a store I associate with ripped jeans and lace camisoles made only for layering options (every early 2000s girl knows exactly what I’m talking about).

After high school, I didn’t give the brand much thought and kept my lace camisoles tucked away at the bottom of my drawer as a reminder of the teenager I was moving away from. Most of the time.

Recently, American Eagle’s sister company Aerie introduced a body positive campaign and brand that has launched literally a thousand ships of success and for all the right reasons.

Real Women Have Curves:

As a young adult, I would avoid magazines for shopping, notably catalogs for bathing suits.

The visual representation didn’t connect with me; these beautifully fine-tuned, hip bone jaunting, sleek women effortlessly jumping through waves (how is their hair wet but also dry and not frizzing?)… were just not me. And would never be me.

I’m not 5’11”, I don’t offer a year-long glowing tan and I certainly don’t look like that in a bikini.

Bathing suit shopping, for most, is a private event that is reserved for dimly lit dressing rooms where you can analyze every dimple in your butt, every sunspot that suddenly illuminates under fluorescent lighting until you find maybe one suit that is decent enough to get through the summer.

Luckily for teens and young adults, Aerie has been the long-awaited answer I wish had access to when struggling through my pre-teen and teenage years.

Enter #AerieREAL

Use customers as models?! Well, of course!

So simple of a concept but not utilized until the last few years. #AerieREAL highlights and magnifies women of all shapes and sizes. And not in the way other brands try to do by just adding one or two women other than the size 0 models.

Good work, you tried REAL hard to diversify.

Nope, this time the customer of Aerie is now the forward facing image of the brand.

You and me. Our body types, our imperfections or rather our celebrations are front and center. Showing the world what real means to retailers trying to tell us otherwise.

50% Natural 150% Retouching:

When I first starting noticing promoted ads for Aerie, I didn’t connect the dots to American Eagle. Probably best I didn’t connect it because the American Eagle I remembered didn’t correlate with this new brand that kept serving me ads across Instagram.

I fell in love with the imagery. Instantly I was seeing women who looked just like me and who hadn’t been meticulously sculpted and air-brushed by Photoshop before being approved for content launch.

Their approach, moving away from re-touching and into a body positive movement is a big step for retailers. It’s putting power back in the customer and proving we don’t need to a fit a certain box to be worthy of a full catalog spread.

These women were approved as is. In their most natural and beautiful state. And we’re not talking about just teens or young adults. Aerie celebrates every age and every disability, proving they are growing and changing the world’s perception of what “beauty” means.

As a woman, how amazing does it feel to flip open a catalog and see yourself reflected back?

For so long we became accustomed to what the world wanted us to look like, how we should look frolicking on a beach compared to the reality we woke up with every day.

[Does anyone actually frolick on the beach though? Like in real life?].

It seems simple to us on the other side of the print. Of course, you should make your customers the models of your brand, how easy!

But the reality is no brand has actually…honestly…done this.

Most apparel brands fail to see their customers in a realistic light. And shove their budget into a bucket that’s already grossly overflowing. The bucket of packaged beauty, reserved for a small portion of the population.

The recent airing of The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show further proves how out of touch retailers are when it comes to their audience. While it boasts over 800 million views each year it fails to represent the women it serves.

Victoria’s Secret has never hired a transgender model for an ad campaign or included in part of their runway shows. In addition, the retailer has never featured a plus-size model.

While each year, plenty of us tune in for the over the top glorification of perfect models casually strutting down a runway, we instantly revert back, even subconsciously, comparing ourselves to those #bodygoals well out of reach.

On the flip side, other brands are taking note of Aerie’s success. Outdoor Voices showcases real women in their apparel, promoting the lifestyle of “doing things” your own way.

I was so ecstatic when I saw an ad for OV running shorts that featured a woman with cellulite.

Excitement over cellulite?

Yes. Because finally, a brand was accepting that 90% of women (and 10% of men!) have cellulite.

Rather than hide it, cellulite was being promoted.

The Future is Aerie Bright:

This past August, Aerie selected 57 non-models for a lingerie campaign cementing their position on body positivity.

Aerie storefronts across the US also launched their “Support In The Fitting Room,” asking clients to write positive affirmations to share and stick on the mirror.

Leaving a bit of a pay it forward to the next fitting room guest.

The mission of Aerie is simple and feels so understated at first glance. Girl Power. Body Positive. No Re-Touching.

The messaging and visual empowerment led by Aerie proves that the customer can take back their place in the eyes of big-box retailers.

We are the buyer. We are the story that drives the message.

Imperfections and all, we deserve to be celebrated.

Thanks for leading the charge, Aerie.

Bre D'Alessio South

Written by

A midwesterner disguised as an Austinite. Freelance writer and content strategist. https://www.bredalessiosouth.com/

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