Glossy: How Aerie Established a TikTok Following in Two Weeks

By Katie Richards/ Link to article

After launching a TikTok account two weeks ago, Aerie is going all in on the platform.

When Aerie closed all of its U.S. and Canada stores and most employees started working from home, on March 17, the brand began focusing on how to evolve its marketing strategy to bring more positivity to customers without overselling product. Like many brands, TikTok wasn’t something the company had tried prior to quarantine orders, but it had been on the marketing team’s radar for a while. Plus, with a pool of big name brand ambassadors like Iskra Lawrence, Denise Mercedes and Charli D’Amelio, the team knew Aerie could draw some high engagement on TikTok.

“We know we have a heavily Gen-Z [audience] and we knew we could have an influence by creating content that made you feel like staying home, expressing yourself and being comfy at home,” said Stacey McCormick, svp of Aerie marketing.

On April 15, a day after launching its TikTok account, Aerie kicked off a sponsored #AerieRealPositivity hashtag challenge. The challenge, which is ongoing, asks users to post a video sharing three things they’re thankful for and upload the video with the sponsored hashtag. TikTok influencer Charli D’Amelio kicked off the challenge, posting a video both to her own 51.5 million followers (which received 3.3 million likes and 21.8 million views) and to Aerie’s account (nearly 10,000 likes and 76,700 views).

In the two weeks after the challenge went live, Aerie earned 17,400-plus followers. There were 6,600 videos that were posted with the challenge hashtag, which together saw more than 1.3 billion views. While the brand did not share specifics on the cost, sponsored TikTok hashtag challenges cost $150,000 for six days, according to Influencer Marketing Hub. The week of April 15, Aerie also reported 16,000 new Instagram followers (a 1,000% increase, compared to an average week) and a significant increase in traffic to the #AerieReal Life homepage, with 138,000 views in a single day. The brand declined to share traffic numbers for a normal day.

While many brands have been dabbling in TikTok over the last six weeks, Aerie is one of the few on the fashion side to put money behind a paid campaign. Beauty brands have been all over TikTok in recent weeks, and luxury fashion brands are also rushing to the platform as a way to connect with Gen-Z customers. In 2019, the TikTok app had 46 million downloads in the U.S., accounting for roughly 6% of all global downloads, per Influencer Marketing Hub.

“When we realized the positivity challenge was something we could do, we knew we could amplify it in a big way on TikTok. We had already been planning to work with Charli, and thought that having her organically share it on her TikTok would be great — but we knew if we amplified it even more [with a sponsored challenge], it could resonate so much more and make a big statement,” said McCormick.

Another reason why McCormick believes the challenge has been so successful is that the brand created an original song, called “100% Real Love,” to be used with the challenge. Beauty brands like E.l.f. Cosmetics have seen success going this route — creating a catchy song that ends up in the background of thousands of popular videos.

“On TikTok, advertisers who appeal to this elusive generation with fresh, timely content will be seen as the cool new friend. However, such brands must continue to innovate how they engage with this generation through social media in order to stay relevant,” said Eric Oldfield, chief business officer at social learning network Brainly.

After seeing strong results from this first paid effort, Aerie is working to incorporate other types of TikTok videos into the feed. Some will be focused on the role models, and others will be more product-focused. Last week, one of Aerie’s stylists appeared on the brand’s page showing four ways to wear a new ribbed knit skirt.

“It’s just a no-brainer to continue [hosting challenges] and look for new, fun ways to be on TikTok. There are just so many ways we can share the brand, whether that is through product messaging, role model content or just more positivity,” said McCormick.