WWD: EXCLUSIVE: American Eagle Goes Back to School With Snapchat

The fall 2021 campaign stars Chase Stokes, Madison Bailey, Addison Rae, Caleb McLaughlin and Jenna Ortega.

By Kellie Ell / Link to article

American Eagle is going back to school.

To celebrate, the retailer is rolling out its fall 2021 “Future Together, Jeans Are Forever” back-to-school campaign while building on the brand’s virtual Snapchat shopping experience.

“We’re having so much fun and so much success from Snapchat right now,” Craig Brommers, American Eagle’s chief marketing officer, told WWD. “Both sides of the [American Eagle and Snapchat] partnership are pushing each other toward innovation and engagement for our customer.”

American Eagle

It all began during last year’s holiday shopping season, when American Eagle rolled out its first Snapchat shopping experience, a virtual pop-up, followed by a digital 3D Snapchat Jeans Guide in the spring.

The latest American Eagle x Snapchat shopping experience, which launches today, builds on the momentum, allowing shoppers to browse the full AE assortment by way of “Dress Yourself” augmented reality. Using the Snapchat camera, consumers can take a photo of themselves and then virtually try on select pieces throughout the entire American Eagle assortment. They’ll also be able to share looks with friends and buy products while in the app.

In addition, American Eagle is partnering with Bitmoji for the first time. Shoppers can view the campaign cast — which includes Netflix’s “Outer Banks” stars Chase Stokes and Madison Bailey, TikTok personality Addison Rae, Netflix’s “Stranger Things” star Caleb McLaughlin and actress Jenna Ortega ​​— as Bitmoji characters, dressing them in various American Eagle outfits. Consumers will also have the ability to create their own Bitmoji and dress themselves in American Eagle styles.

“The experience highlights something we’ve been really excited about at American Eagle for the last year or so: We’re giving our customer the opportunity to shop anytime, anywhere, anyhow they want to,” Brommers said. “And to put innovation, along with an engaging experience, along with the ease of shopping, with just a couple of clicks, it was something that our customer really responded well to. It reinforces to us that Gen Z is a very social generation.”

In fact, the American Eagle brand sold more than $2 million worth of merchandise through the Snapchat holiday pop-up alone, while also generating roughly 50 million page views. That’s just a fraction of the $1.29 billion in revenues parent company American Eagle Outfitters — which also includes the AerieOffline, Todd Snyder and Unsubscribed brands — logged during the normally lucrative fourth quarter last year. It’s still impressive, nonetheless, helping to pave the way for an equally successful spring Snapchat campaign, which registered roughly $760,000 in sales and a click-through rate that was 300 percent higher than Snapchat’s baseline measurement rate.

It also helps that American Eagle has cast some of Gen Z’s hottest young talent to appear in the campaign, all of whom will participate in tonight’s event on Clubhouse, the audio-only social networking site.

“We wanted to work with the people that were going to be defining culture,” Brommers said. “The five [cast members] together are a terrific, inclusive, optimistic, energetic cast that is going to get a lot of people excited and [want to] head back to the malls and head back to our site to shop for back to school. And we thought the Clubhouse event would be an innovative way to have the cast talk about their experience on the set, their experience with clothes and what they have in their personal lives and professional lives in the coming months.”

American Eagle Caleb McLaughlin

McLaughlin added that Gen Z’s diversity — or at least the representation of it in mainstream media for the first time — is what makes his cohort so unique.

“No one’s, like, really the same anymore,” he said. “Everyone has their own thing going on. Different people coming together, different cultures, different races. I think that’s what’s special about Gen Z.”

But it’s not just Gen Z that has taken a liking to the brand. Brommers said growth in the American Eagle app spans across all demographics. So does a return to physical stores — even as consumers continue to engage online.

“The return to the physical world is real,” he explained. “We’ve seen it in our traffic trends. We’ve seen it in our customers, when he or she gets the chance to come back to the American Eagle stores, to look, touch and feel the product. So we’re creating a really engaging environment.

“The majority of kids for back-to-school season, they did not have a traditional return-to-school last year,” Brommers continued. “Our mantra internally has been that school hallways will be the runway this fall. But there’s no doubt that digital commerce has been a winner through the pandemic. The strength of that channel is also here to stay. Don’t think for a moment that interesting, engaging digital experiences are going away. Consumers are toggling back and forth between that physical and digital world constantly.”

McLaughlin said he’s eager to reenter the world of IRL socializing.

“That’s what this campaign represents,” he said, describing the shoot that took place in a Southern California desert over the summer. “It’s just about being with friends and just being together, because we’ve been away for so long. I got to work with a few of my peers in the industry and I had a great time doing it.

“And fashion has always been an important thing in my life,” McLaughlin added. “I wanted to share that with people.”

As for what shoppers are buying, Brommers called the current shopping season a “denim palooza,” with multiple silhouettes in vogue, from mom jeans to flares to boyfriend styles, so much so that the company is launching “jeans bars” in stores to help navigate the array of options. (McLaughlin is a fan of the Airflex athletic skinny jeans.) There’s also lots of bright colors and ’90s-inspired finds.

“The ‘Future Together, Jeans Are Forever’ campaign symbolizes our mission to inspire positivity for our customer and this influential cast is perfect in creating an emotional connection that comes with togetherness,” said Jennifer Foyle, president, executive creative director of American Eagle and Aerie. “At AE, our purpose is to celebrate individuality and the freedom to be your truly unique self. This season, we are inspired by the excitement of the back-to-school season and have an amazing collection of new jeans silhouettes and tops for the perfect outfit.”