WWD: Aerie Has Found Its Happy Spot Online–and IRL, Too

By: Kellie Ell / Link to article

Aerie has found its happy spot online amid an increasingly negative social media backdrop. 

This spring, the innerwear, swimwear and loungewear brand, which is part of the American Eagle Outfitters family, has created a campaign that focuses on reversing the negative effects of social media. The initiative includes a three-day TikTok hashtag challenge; PSAs (or “positive scrolling always” moments) that will be broadcast across both TikTok and Instagram; some new Aerie ambassadors and change-makers (as well as some returning fan favorites), and an IRL “Happy Spot” spring break event in Miami, where Aerie fans can snap photos and share the brand’s positive vibes across their own social media channels. 

“Our main goal is to flood the feed with positivity,” Stacey McCormick, senior vice president of Aerie brand marketing, told WWD in an exclusive interview. “We like to call it reeling in the rhythm, which is bringing more ‘real’ to the algorithm. We want to create a safe and good place for social media, because we know that she’s going to be on her social. They are going to be — if not shopping — scrolling all the time. These PSAs are really there to help break that feed and deliver some great messaging.”

The PSAs will feature tips and tricks of how to combat negativity on online, such as how to walk away from social media and take a break when needed, or positive affirmations that individuals can use to block some of the negative noise on the internet. 

“This initiative is very important to us and we do think it works,” McCormick said. “We do see that when given positive content, and content that’s unfiltered and real, it can help someone feel better about themselves. And we hear from our community, loud and clear, that we are a safe place.” 

Aerie Kelsea Ballerini
Singer and songwriter Kelsea Ballerini has been working with Aerie for two years.

Aerie’s spring lineup of changemakers and ambassadors includes TikTok personalities Erika Priscilla, Hannah Schlenker and Elyse Myers; actors Alisha Boe and Carlacia Grant; Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, and singer, songwriter Kelsea Ballerini, all women who McCormick said are “bringing that positivity into their communities. They’re all very synonymous with being real through their social and through their world.”

That’s been in the brand’s ethos since 2014, eight years after the brand was created, when Aerie launched its first Aerie Real campaign, starring role model Iskra Lawrence, proudly posing in Aerie products. Except there was no airbrushing and all the features that would have historically been considered flaws — including stretch marks and cellulite — were on display.

Since then, other brands have followed. While McCormick said she’s encouraged by how the movement has helped shape the industry, she said there’s still work to be done. “We know that we started the movement and the responsibility that we have to keep pushing it and to drive it,” McCormick said. 

Jennifer Foyle, president and executive creative director of both the American Eagle and Aerie brands, added: “The hashtag AerieReal movement revolutionized the industry, bringing inclusivity to the forefront and empowering young women to love their real selves inside and out. As we build on the strength of Aerie, we are committed to helping our community find their happy and prioritize positivity. We know social media can have a negative impact, which is why we are creating a safe and happy space that fosters healthy conversations and cultivates a positive social [media] scroll for our Aerie community.”

Aly Raisman Aerie
Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman for Aerie.

Asking users to limit their time on social media by way of various social media platforms might seem strange. But Ballerini pointed out, “It’s the easiest way to get messaging to people. It’s obviously the way of now, of marketing and of getting what you want people to know to the people who you want to know it. I definitely feel like there’s no fault there. 

“But also, like, when you’re scrolling through your feed and you’re following all kinds of people, and you’re also following Aerie, you’re going to see an unfiltered photo with stretch marks. Or an unfiltered photo with all kinds of body types,” Ballerini said. “And I think that in itself is combating the rut of what’s wrong with social media. Just because I feel like that [positivity] is what we’re missing. That’s part of the toxicity of social media. 

“I’m constantly in a back and forth relationship with social media, just trying to get my own mental health around it to a good place,” she added. “We’re all looking to these standards [on social media] that aren’t even real pictures or real people. I just think about these young girls who are thinking, ‘Am I supposed to look like that?’ ‘Is that what pretty means?’ That term is so broad.” 

McCormick added that in-person activations are an important part of the yearlong anti-negativity initiative, so people can connect IRL, outside of social media. The first of which will be Aerie’s “Happy Spot” pool party at the Good Times Hotel in Miami’s South Beach on Wednesday. Shoppers will have a chance to meet and greet the Aerie ambassadors while they browse the new spring collections. Ballerini will also perform her latest song, “Keepin’ It Real,” a song she created in partnership with Aerie. Ticket proceeds will benefit the Miami-based nonprofit Style Saves.

“We like to call it our take-a-break event, instead of spring break,” said McCormick, who added that additional in-person events will likely roll out later in the year as more brick-and-mortar Aerie and Offline stores pop-up throughout the country. “We know our customers need a little bit of levity and need to take a break. And bringing Aerie to more people in real life, so they can experience the store and the connection they have with our brand, is just as important as the digital and social things that we do.”