WWD EXCLUSIVE: American Eagle Is Going Back to School With New Music Technology

By: Kellie Ell | Link to article

American Eagle is getting into the groove with three music-focused activations in the metaverse as Gen Z prepares to go back to school.

Starting this month, the AE brand — which is part of parent company American Eagle Outfitters — has activations (both IRL and online) across Meta’s Oculus, Roblox and TikTok’s SoundOn platforms.

“American Eagle has always been about leaning into Gen Z passion points during the back-to-school season and we thought that as this particular customer gets outside and lives their best life again that music would be such a great passion point to lean into,” Craig Brommers, chief marketing officer at American Eagle Outfitters, told WWD exclusively.

The activations will allow shoppers to have one foot in the physical world and one foot in the metaverse, starting this Friday with musician Blu DeTiger’s avatar performing a virtual concert inside the AE experience on Roblox. The following day, AE will roll out a hybrid experience by way of Meta’s virtual reality Oculus. Later this month, AE will also be the first brand to partner with TikTok’s new SoundOn marketing and distribution platform in a hashtag challenge that will allow users to create their own “AE anthem” while wearing their AE jeans.

“These are immersive experiences,” Brommers said. “But they’re also in ways that our customers tell us. They want to be able to live their life — yes, in the metaverse — but also in this universe as well. So this will be a great opportunity for them to connect the dots from the physical and metaverse world.”

Jennifer Foyle, president and executive creative director of the AE, Aerie, Unsubscribed and Offline by Aerie brands, added: “We are excited to offer our community multiple ways to express their personal style.”

The AE x Oculus activation arrived in eight American Eagle stores — in places like New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Ohio — this week. Shoppers are able to use the Oculus goggles for free in stores to view behind-the-scenes footage of an AE back-to-school video. If the experience is a hit, the brand will likely expand the program to other locations, Brommers said.

The updated AE x Roblox experience will include Friday’s concert with Blu DeTiger performing her song “Vintage.” Consumers can also spend time in the AE virtual clubhouse and purchase virtual apparel products for their avatars. And while many brands are experimenting with digital fashion, Brommers said AE’s Roblox experience has had 30 million unique visitors since its inception.

“There’s something in Roblox that we’re offering our fans that people are excited about,” he said.

In addition, American Eagle is the first brand to partner with TikTok’s new SoundOn vertical and will create a “AE Back-to-school anthem” with musician Katherine Li. Unlike TikTok’s traditional video-making platform, the SoundOn technology allows artists to gain royalties from their music.

Brommers said the platform also makes it easier for artists to upload music, use consumer-engagement data to make new music and then target an even wider audience. Musicians can also find and create duets with other artists on the platform.

“One of the things that Gen Z is passionate about is that anyone at any time can be discovered and be the next music star; people who are plucked from obscurity and all of a sudden go viral and are now potentially making their impact in music,” Brommers said. “As we’ve learned on this platform, you really have to let the creator lead the way a bit.”

The TikTok SoundOn rollout also includes a #AEJeansSoundOn hashtag challenge from Aug. 23 to Aug. 25. Three winners will receive $3,000 gift cards and a chance to be featured on American Eagle’s 26-story storefront in New York’s Times Square. “It will be kind of like a fun 15 seconds of fame for a customer out there,” Brommers said.

The latest marketing initiatives come as other brands are pulling back marketing spend to curb rising prices and other inflationary pressures. Brommers said American Eagle has other plans.

“You have to ride the economic wave and we’re riding it right now,” he explained. “We’re leaning into the season and hopefully capturing our fair share of jeans market share and our fair share of overall back-to-school share. American Eagle has been out in the market for a long time and we know that not only do we need to continue to create these innovative experiences as a brand, we also have to offer value to our customers.

“We are aware of the economic situation, but we’ve been doing this for a long time,” Brommers added. “We know that if we stay the course and we stay consistent, we’ll win in the long run.”