American Apparel Getting it Right

I love it when you do it right!

American Apparel's latest foray into social media is an example of social participation gone right...why? Because American Apparel embraced its most loyal customers. Did they build some fancy widget or social network? Nope, they took the behavioral route-- simply enabled and empowered their customers, reached out to them, and rewarded them. Its also a perfect example of online-offline integration. Details below via Mashable:

Chictopia and America Apparel have hooked up, giving real girls real model moments to pose for the ├╝ber chic brand.

The social network, which lets you crowdsource for trends that fit you, has an incredibly active community of fashionistas, with a lucky few getting their big break. The Chictopia blog post highlights the site’s big win.

Both companies are touting the fact that the campaign, “rebels the notion that fashion is dominated by models held to unobtainable body standards. Chictopia’s tools give girls with no access to agents or expensive makeup and clothes the ability to segue into modeling for a major fashion company within just a few months. American Apparel, who is well known for refusing to use airbrushing in their advertisements, and Chictopia are showing that traditional media beauty standards are obsolete and inefficient.”

PS- Thanks to Jackie at SomeNotesOnNapkins for pointing me to this campaign!


I do want to add a caveat to this-- I think that as a model for consumer engagement, this works. I understand that AA as a brand can be controversial, and some of their most recent ad content has become even more so. This post is not intended to condone or condem American Apparel's branding or the ethics of their notorious CEO. Again, as a model for engagement, this particular initiative is a solid example of how to do it.


Shawn said...

Looks like I'm going to have to hide the widget I just made.

Matthew Daniels said...

I'm always skeptical of any success attributed to AA--their stock has fallen 90% over the past year and I believe they were at one point on the brink of bankruptcy...

That said, I'm curious why AA just didn't reward their actual customers rather than those in the social network? You'd think the word of mouth would be stronger for someone who spends $1K a year at AA rather than the top Chicotopia member.

Shawn said...

@Matthew Daniels

They all wear AA and featured products before this ever happened. And I don't know if the spend-$1,000-and-make-it-in-a-web-ad campaign would be as endearing as a genuine, communicative effort with a smaller social network.

Matthew Daniels said...

I'm thinking about profits here, not fluffy endearing feelings.

It's much more endearing to reward your best customers rather than those in a social network...

Consider the age-old marketing wisdom--it's easier to get your most loyal customers to spend more than acquire new ones.

Some Notes on Napkins said...

As a fashion blogger I think this campaign is brilliant (Ahem Alisa I sent it to you!) But seriously these girls in the ads are somewhat "fashion celebs" of the blog world and loads of girls look up to them. Their posts get 500 + comments from girls "Aspiring" to get their style. As a marketer this is a prime opportunity, the fact that they openly wear your brand is fantastic so why not leverage that even further and have them advertise the way they wear it? I am sure this will drive "new customers" and as a results sales. Bravo Shawn and the AA team.

alisa leonard-hansen said...

@Jackie, you're right...and note I updated the post...thanks for emailing me about it!

Cheapsuits said...

@Matthew Daniels So you are judging the company soley on its stock price? That's so 2005. That's what got us where we are financially today. The whole ENTIRE retail industry is battered, especially clothing, if you haven't noticed. The point here is APP is gaining traction and the likes of ANF is losing ground. If you are going to be skeptical of 'any success attributed to' APP then either short the stock or stay away from it all together. I suggest you step back from the Bloomberg and get out to a mall. The demo customer for HOTT,ANF,CHIC,ARO,URBN,AEO,BEBE,PSUN,ZUMZ doesn't go for 'old school' marketing and they ferret out very quickly the bullsh*t. I like what APP is doing.

Shawn said...

If you look, AA's profits have consistently been going up. If you want to look at every single marketing pursuit as purely ROI, you're bound to be in trouble. There aren't many retailers that are turning profits anywhere while we still are.

The people on Chictopia already wear AA. Even if they're not in the ads, they're still being rewarded. Why? In that community, they might be fashion celebs, but they're still Facebook friends, share comments on outfits, etc. We're not trying to get new customers on Chictopia. If you're blogging about fashion, you've already heard about American Apparel.

These models are already loyal. They're students and interns; they're not going to be throwing tons of money around. They show their loyalty in a much different (and more valuable) way. Attention and exposure. They're often idolized, like Jackie says, but it's still personal on a very real level. They put on a circle scarf and a hundred other fans are going to want one. And now we, as a company, are friends with these people who are tastemakers, people that provide quality content that is relevant and impressive to thousands of others. I had a talk with the model above last night about how her best friend goes to my old alma mater. It's not strategic. It's not even fricken' marketing. It's just HUMAN.

Online, age-old idioms or talking points are pretty but not substantive. You don't have to read 'Positioning' or data mine a ton to do this. It's just common sense. It's a good idea and it was imagined without even a thought on how much we'd make off of it. It costs us practically nothing we weren't already going to spend.

We'd all be better served to think like an actual person instead of a number-crunching robot once and a while. THAT is what really markets well in social networks. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm sticking to it.

And thanks for the compliments, guys.

Anonymous said...

AA isn't doing well financially? they opened like ninety something stores in the past year.

Matthew Daniels said...

Thanks for the feedback--I'm not very close to AA's marketing so this is a great perspective.

I'm skeptical of AA because the market believes they will go bankrupt. You're right, AA is profitable-in any other environment it would probably be a rock star.

I like this campaign--it creatively uses social networks that will surely be copied by other retailers.

Regarding ROI/instincts: this is an on-going to debate in the marketing world. Surely it should be a balance of both.