Aerie’s CMO Reflects on 10 Years of Body Confidence and Women’s Empowerment

By: Marie Albiges | Link to article

Stacey McCormick, chief marketing officer of Aerie, OFFL/NE, and Unsubscribed — all brands within the American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) portfolio — has been with AEO for 27 years and has seen the transformations within the company firsthand.

At the Women in Retail On the Road event in Pittsburgh earlier this month, McCormick sat down with Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC) Co-Founder Melissa Campanelli to reflect on her career, the Aerie brand’s marketing impact, and more.

McCormick, whose background is in merchandising and marketing, helped start Aerie in 2005 as an intimates brand after seeing a gap in the market.

“There was no place for young girls to shop,” McCormick said. “There really wasn’t a place for someone to go and find something that made them feel good.”

Aerie stopped digitally retouching models and launched its #AerieReal spokesmodel program in 2014, featuring female models of various body types. McCormick said the campaign revolutionized “what we felt was something that wasn’t happening in the space, wasn’t happening in retail at all.”

McCormick said Aerie challenged the notion that the models selling products should be presented as perfect to consumers.

“At the time, people thought we were crazy,” recalled McCormick, adding that in the time of the “supermodel era,” this body positivity approach was unheard of.

McCormick said Aerie also pioneered what we now know as user-generated content (UGC) with the #AerieReal campaign, which encourages customers to post photos of themselves in the products with the hashtag. Today, Aerie has built a library of UGC through store ambassadors, paid media organizations, and micro-influencers on social media.

“Not only are we a retailer selling product, but there’s so much more we can do to resonate and make change, and so we did it,” McCormick said.