Aeropostale Pumps Up Their Marketing GPA for Back-to-School

Aeropostale Pumps Up Their Marketing GPA for Back-to-School

Aeropostale is trying on something new for this year’s college back-to-school. And according to an internal marketing study we conducted at Mattr, I think they’ll clobber both American Eagle and H&M – two retailers serving different segments of the teen fashion market.

Back-to-school season is here, and brands are pulling out all the stops to attract the attention of college shoppers. Combined spending for the back-to-school and college market is estimated to hit $75 billion in 2014, with more than half of that being spent on clothes, dorm furniture, electronics, and school supplies for college students.

These shoppers aren’t one big homogenous group. To be successful, you need to court and convert your unique audience–and like those college kids, you can do it on a ramen budget.

Here are three approaches brands like Target and Aeropostale use. And since these approaches all leverage social data, you still have time to put some strategies into place for this season’s back-to-school.

1. Identify (and woo) your college student brand persona.

If you’re like many brands, you might only target college shoppers based on age or location. But the college market is unique and varied, and many brands are missing out on catering to their audience’s interests, values, and personality traits.To engage your target customers, you need to segment.

Within the college market, there are people whose personalities and values compel them to click on discounts. But others within the same age range and lifestyle bracket are so repelled by discount messaging that trying it would damage your brand.

Just look at teen fashion retailers Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle. They overwhelmingly fall into the “rugged” and “daring” personas — personalities that love edgy messaging and are turned off by discounted, commoditized goods. Their suggestive, forward advertising appeals to that daring personality and can cause a bit of controversy.


On the other hand, teen fashion discounters or “fast fashion” brands like H&M speak to an entirely different segment of the college market and inspire their customers with different messaging.

2. Target the right influencers for your unique personas.

When you aim blanket messaging at the college market, you have to pay for generic, expensive media influencers. But what if you could make the most of your advertising budget and resonate with your audience at the same time?

You can. By identifying unique, over-indexed influencers and media personalities, you can spend less but reach a higher concentration of your audience. Here’s that ramen budget win.

For teen fashion retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle, the “daring” spenders are all focused on pop culture entertainment interests associated with a younger demographic.


Reliable “fast fashion” H&M engagers, however, scream Honda Accord budget practicality with bloggers and other discount consumer goods and retailers.

Using research gleaned online or from your data-gathering store location, you can view the overlap between your brand, your customers, and other brands based on interest. You can then identify less popular influencers who are more likely to resonate with your audience.

3. Be ready to shift gears.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. According to our analysis of the people talking on social to brands like Abercrombie and Aeropostale, teens are becoming more price sensitive. So they still respond to edgy advertisements, but are more than willing to pay less than the American Eagle price.

So here’s what Aeropostale has done. Because of the trend to price sensitivity among their teen consumers, they launched an aggressive shift by moving down market. With sub-brands like “Live Love Dream” and prices closer to H&M and Forever21, they’re positioned to capture the American Eagle teen. They know that their target market will click on edgy content, but will also click on the Buy button when they see the H&M – like prices.

The lesson for hungry college market brands? Be willing to shake things up with targeted tactics and promotions that will speak to your specific segment of college students.

Most brands think of the college crowd as a single category, and their back-to-school marketing suffers for it. Gain an edge in the college market without blowing your budget by looking to form deeper, more nuanced connections and inspiring your audience to make purchases that align with their values.

3 Ways Teen Fashion Retailers Can Dress Up Back-To-School Campaigns

3 Ways Teen Fashion Retailers Can Dress Up Back-To-School Campaigns

(Originally posted in Convince&Convert)

Let’s be honest. For being the second-largest retail opportunity of the year, back-to-school shopping is about as exciting as a trip to the DMV.

Its bland predictability is a shame because there are nearly $300 per household at stake. Think of the millions of backpacks, sneakers, and No. 2 pencils smart retailers will sell before the first day of school.

Teen fashion brands are major stakeholders in the back-to-school frenzy. Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, and Aéropostale were all written off as dying brands, but they have one significant resource that gives them an edge: a much higher persona cardinality. This allows them to focus their creative, media, and influencer spending on one persona type rather than a blanket audience.

For big players and up-and-coming brands alike, it doesn’t matter how creative your advertising is. If you don’t take the time to tailor your message to the right consumer, it will get lost in the noise. To get on this year’s lucrative back-to-school shopping list, you need to tap into the power of flawlessly targeted social media campaigns and customer-specific messaging.

Here are three simple steps to ensure you’re reaching your target customer in the right way:

1. Hit the Right Tone With Your Content

There are two main customer personas vying for teen fashion revenue: bargain-hunting moms who prefer Walmart and Target and fashion-conscious teens who prefer Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle.

Walmart and Target’s social audience consists of mostly 25- to 34-year-old women with either wholesome or reliable brand personalities — people who click on simply worded, tangible content. These personalities respond to money words such as “discount” or “sale.”

Teen fashion engagers represent a completely different group. They have a rugged or daring brand personality and are known as the cynics of the brand personality spectrum. They’re turned off by hyperbole and fluff, and they don’t care for money words. An update that dotes “40 percent off!” won’t excite them, so save it.

Here’s a great example of an American Eagle tweet that missed the mark when it tried to use money words to entice teen fashion engagers:

JHCC1 298x240 3 Steps for Getting Your Brand on the Back to School Shopping List

You can almost hear the employee at American Eagle say, “But this is for Walmart people!”

When you’re after the rugged or daring teen fashion types, stay away from the simplistic, unambiguous content that wholesome types love, and focus on stylish, edgy content.

2. Choose a Targeted Platform, and Make It Visual

While most brand-sourced posts will benefit from a more visual platform such as Instagram or Vine, you still need to make this decision based on your target market research.

If you look at the teen fashion market, recent statistics might suggest that Facebook is still the most popular social media platform. But you can see below that the teen fashion crowd engages the most on other social sites, including Vine and Instagram.

JHCC2 1024x584 3 Steps for Getting Your Brand on the Back to School Shopping List

However, Facebook does rank in the top two for Walmart’s 25- to 34-year-old group of wholesome or reliable women, and some surprising platforms — such as Bonanza — might be worth looking into.

Making an educated decision about where to focus your time and energy is absolutely crucial for capturing your audience’s attention. Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, will want to target younger consumers by concentrating on their influencer network and posting on mobile-friendly visual platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. On the other hand, brands targeting moms will have more success with Facebook and Pinterest.

3. Use Twitter to Identify Hard-Working Influencers

Twitter is the champion of all social platforms for analytics. It’s a great tool for vetting your would-be influencer and endorser network and making sure your content is tuned into the right brand personality.

For example, teen fashion influencers are heavy Twitter users with tweet histories going back thousands of engagements. These influencers are over-indexed — that is, uniquely popular among this persona — and completely different from the influencers of Walmart’s and Target’s markets.

JHCC3 1024x464 3 Steps for Getting Your Brand on the Back to School Shopping List

In stark contrast to the teen fashion influencers, the following image of Walmart and Target influencers are clearly mommy bloggers who appeal to 25- to 34-year-old wholesome and reliable females.

JHCC4 1024x464 3 Steps for Getting Your Brand on the Back to School Shopping List

Choosing the best influencer or endorser for your brand will help your back-to-school promotions work harder and your marketing budget go further.

It’s not about competing with other brands to get on the back-to-school shopping list. It’s about sharing a unique and specific message with a unique and specific audience that will scrawl your name at the top of that shopping list. Establish trust and build loyalty by targeting your social media strategy to a clearly defined customer persona, and you can’t go wrong.

Every Brand has a Powerful Story Behind It – 4 Ways to Find Your Own

Every Brand has a Powerful Story Behind It – 4 Ways to Find Your Own

(Originally posted in DailySEOBlog)

The Jeep brand is great at storytelling to influence their audience.

If there’s one secret to effective marketing, it’s that customers are drawn to powerful stories.

It makes sense. Compared to traditional sales tactics, storytelling is downright seductive. Where “selling” pushes the product on the consumer, storytelling pulls the consumer in with culture and a sense of belonging. Instead of spouting facts and features, storytelling provokes a positive emotional connection. And finally, where traditional selling pressures the customer to act, storytelling builds a need within the customer that the brand can fulfill.

As marketers find new ways to make these connections with buyers, creativity and storytelling become increasingly important. But it’s not enough for a brand to simply develop a personality; it has to translate into a story that truly resonates with customers.

If your brand wants to crack open the long-term benefits of building a fan base with storytelling, here are four steps you need to follow:

1. Research What Personally Influences Your Market

Your brand story is based on the unique personality of your brand and all the facets that have shaped it: its history, influences, and values, as well as the people behind it.

But even with an established brand story, the way you tell your target market this story depends on who those people are. To ensure the right message reaches the right people, you need to determine what personally influences your audience’s emotions.

First, you have to identify and target the right audience with segmentation. Pay attention to things like gender and demographics, as well as deeper segmentation, such as personality traits and your audience’s interests.

To see this strategy in action, just look at Red Bull. This brand has done a great job of telling a brand story that resonates with a certain segment of young males, including content focused on adventure sports, car racing, video games, and music.

Red Bull breaks out of its comfort zone with its content — just like its target customers strive to break out of their own comfort zones — and Red Bull’s branding and content reflects this message.

Jeep is another brand that successfully communicates its story with rugged, “part of the club” brand storytelling. This aligns with the values of freedom and adventure that are extremely relatable to its audience. Jeep has continued to connect to its audience throughout its long history of weathering the market, even as it introduces more luxury features to the brand with the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

2. Utilize Strategic SEO

Once you have a clear view of your brand story, you need to tell it strategically through digital marketing with content and SEO.

Content marketing creates a deeper connection with your audience by relating to them one-on-one or solving a persistent problem they face. This gets them so invested in your story that they can’t wait to share it with their own networks.

You need to reinforce this story with a backbone of strategic SEO, using keywords that relate to your product features and your brand story. Choose words that work as specific product descriptions and emphasize how your consumers want to feel.

For Jeep, imagine a customer searching “adventurous car to take on awesome road trips,” or “4-wheel drive, soft top, black.”
Keywords that speak to your company values and what your product can deliver will make SEO work for your search results and brand story.

3. Tell Your Story on the Right Platform

You may tell the right story to the right audience, but if it’s communicated on the wrong platform, your efforts are wasted. Tell your story on a platform that will resonate with your unique target audience.

Traditional platforms: While many trends are moving toward digital and live events, traditional marketing methods such as print and TV ads, billboards, letters, and direct mail remain important.

For example, Jeep still sends welcome letters to new Jeep owners with Jeep-branded leather keychains. It’s a traditional, simple touch that’s highly effective and continues to fuel its brand story of inclusiveness.

The brand also does an amazing job of telling emotional, inspirational brand stories, as evidenced by its latest Jeep Grand Cherokee campaign. This is a particularly powerful approach for high-volume viewing events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics.

Digital advertising: Because it offers the largest number of platform options, digital advertising is a no-brainer. However, the sheer amount of engagement tends to create a lot of noise, making it more difficult to stand out.

Mix in your brand story throughout the digital landscape, starting with your company website and the social sites best suited for your brand story. Decide which platforms to focus on by researching each platform based on its merits and targeting the ones on which your customers are spending the most time.

Live events and promotions: Depending on the characteristics of your target customer and the brand story you’re telling, your brand might benefit from live events and promotions. Red Bull does this perfectly with campaigns that exemplify bravery and action, such as its Red Bull Stratos campaign. Ask yourself how your brand could create and promote similar events on a smaller scale to share your brand story.

4. Listen to the Playback

In the digital age, it’s easier than ever for consumers to contribute to a brand’s story. With so much conversation, it’s important for a brand to listen to its consumers’ version of the story and react accordingly. This is especially relevant on social media, where consumers are offering their own content and opinions about brands.

The most powerful part of storytelling happens after you’ve crafted your message, identified your audience, and released your story, so monitor conversations and respond to keep your story relevant.

Every brand has a powerful story behind it. It’s just a matter of untangling that story for the right audience and releasing it on the right platforms. When you take the time to appreciate storytelling and its impact on your customers, you open the floor for your brand fans to latch on to your story and start sharing it themselves.

World Cup Advertising Wars, Part 2: How to Boost Your Campaigns

World Cup Advertising Wars, Part 2: How to Boost Your Campaigns

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Rewind 4 years, and you might recall Adidas and Nike as the top Marketing contenders for World Cup gear, with Adidas as an official sponsor, and Nike as their ambush Marketing competitor.  Both brands were extremely successful with their campaigns, partly because the 2010 World Cup events showed the highest numbers for a sporting event ever on social, providing a great way to increase engagement amongst soccer fans.

Adidas and Nike battle for World Cup soccer gear.


Fast forward to 2014, and not a lot has changed in the battle of the boots and jerseys.  Adidas has again claimed a spot as an official sponsor, with Nike looming in the background ready to pounce.  In fact, Nike wasted no time, and was the first brand to launch a World Cup spot this year with the inspirational theme ‘Risk Everything’.

And Adidas should take note of Nike’s presence, especially since Nike brought the pressure last year when Adidas sales slumped in Western Europe. Truth be told, it’s anyone’s game when it comes to which brand will come out on top after this year’s World Cup.

Segmentation- From Planning to Launching

Elaborating on last week’s post, we plan to reveal some Marketing tactics that might help each of these brands (and smaller brands) gain the World Cup Marketing advantage, by moving away from the campaign ‘Planning’ phase and into the ‘Active’ phase.

To start, let’s look at the changes in the @FIFAWorldCup Personas.  Last week, the most engaged Persona was ‘Wholesome Males’.  Another sample of tweets this week reveals that ‘Reliable Males’ are now just as engaged as ‘Wholesome Males’.

'Reliable' and 'Wholesome' Males lead the pack for @FIFAWorldCup engagement.

‘Reliable’ and ‘Wholesome’ Males lead the pack for @FIFAWorldCup engagement.


So how can brands use this information?  Let’s start with Adidas.  They’ve hit social hard for their last few soccer-themed campaigns, introducing several hashtags (including #FastOrFail for their AdiZero f50 boot, and #GetReady for their Body Care line).  A very smart move on their part.

Now it might also be smart for them to use real-time segmentation to ‘boost’ any online campaigns running concurrently with their TV spots.  This week, that means speaking to the ‘Wholesome’ and ‘Reliable’ Personas that are actively engaged with @FIFAWorldCup and soccer.

Campaign Content Shouldn’t Stay Static

Maybe that entails creating some fresh, new content (social, online advertising, etc) that these Personas can relate to better, because as mentioned last week, personality types unconsciously ‘Respond To’ or ‘Get Turned Off’ by certain language.  The newly engaged ‘Reliable Male’ Persona break-down is below:


'Reliable' people respond to challenge and action, and are turned off by fluff.

‘Reliable’ people respond to challenge and action, and are turned off by fluff.


Popular Hashtags Lead Back to You

Another way to boost their campaigns might be to use the favorite hashtags from both Personas, to encourage engagement with the Adidas campaigns.   The current ‘Reliable Male’ favorite hashtag list is below (and what do you know, #Adidas made the cut).  Using these hashtags in addition to the unique campaign hashtags might bring in more eyeballs from the online soccer audience who Adidas is looking to sell to.

Use your audience's favorite hashtags to get more eyeballs on your content.

Use your audience’s favorite hashtags to get more eyeballs on your content.

Next week we’ll look at the @FIFAWorldCup top shared media and interests, and discuss how Marketers can use that data to make unique media placement and brand influencer decisions.

Want to look at your own brand audience’s personality breakdown or favorite hashtags? Click here.

World Cup Advertising Wars: How To Compete with the Big Guys

World Cup Advertising Wars: How To Compete with the Big Guys

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The World Cup hype has officially started!  And if you’re in Marketing/ Advertising, you’re probably keeping a close eye on the various campaigns that have been introduced to pay homage to one of the world’s most watched sporting events.

FIFA World Cup 2014

Some of the first to release their campaigns were the big soda brands.  World Cup sponsor Coca-Cola and competitor Pepsi have both recently launched TV spots, and there’s already lots of chatter on who got it right.  That answer might seem subjective to most.  But as Marketers know, putting together a campaign that speaks to the right audience takes more than luck.  It takes planning and strategy.  It takes understanding of various brand segments and how to reach them on a personal level.  And it takes knowing that powerful stories about the people behind a brand reside in unfiltered data.

That being said, it can be assumed that both Coca-Cola and Pepsi did lots of research for their campaigns, utilizing large budgets and plenty of time to plan (Coca-Cola apparently began planning back in 2012, and World Cup 2014 stands as their largest campaign ever!).

But for those agencies that might not have the dollars or time to spend on such intensive research- there are simple ways to accomplish a similar goal of understanding audiences by looking at some easily accessible data.  We’ll show you how.  And we’ll also come to our own conclusion, based on our own data, on which soda brand might have the slight advantage in the World Cup campaign wars.

Social- The Secret Sauce

Social has become a very viable option when it comes to gathering insights about your audience.  It’s as easy as picking a social segmentation tool and diving in to all of the data.

We’ve started our own segmentation analysis with a historical snapshot of the FIFA audience, or the last 500 people who have engaged with @FIFAWorldCup on Twitter.   That breakdown shows the highest engagement came from ‘Wholesome Males’, as seen below:

Top Personas for the last 500 people to engage with @FIFAWorldCup on Twitter.

‘Wholesome Males’ are top engagers on Twitter for the @FIFAWorldCup audience.

‘Wholesome’ indicates personality traits like down-to-earth, honest, family oriented, sincere, real and sentimental.  A ‘Wholesome’ person might respond best to campaigns based on truth, openness and emotion (more about ‘Personality Identification’ through social can be found here– very interesting stuff!).

Hot on the trails of those ‘Wholesome’ males are ‘Rugged’ males, with their own set of unique traits that gets them excited.  It’s advantageous for Marketers to look into both groups to see what makes each of them tick.

Hash Out the Hashtags

Now take the analysis a step further, and look at the ‘real-time’ breakdown of the FIFA audience.  In addition to those folks who are currently engaging with the @FIFAWorldCup Twitter handle, you might also be interested in the people who are using the top three most popular Twitter hashtags for the World Cup in general (which are #WorldCup, #Brazil, and #WorldCup2014).  The new analysis looks like this:

FIFA Active 4-15 Screenshot

A ‘real-time’ breakdown of the soccer audience also shows ‘Wholesome’ engagement.

Not surprisingly, the @FIFAWorldCup audience and those using the most popular World Cup hashtags look very similar.  Looking ahead, a Marketer can be confident that the ‘Wholesome’ and ‘Rugged’ males should be the right audience to go after for a campaign.

Your Own Hashtags- Who’s Engaging?

Last, if you’ve created and launched campaign hashtags, it might be beneficial to analyze the people who are chiming in with those hashtags on social, as long as there’s some good traction.  Today, both Coke and Pepsi have launched hashtags for their World Cup campaigns (#WorldsCup and #LiveForNow, respectively).  Traction was highest during the release of the campaigns, and has now subsided.

However, as engagement with these hashtags increases again, which should be a top goal for both brands, Marketers can analyze what types of people the online campaigns are attracting and figure out ways to target those audiences better.  We’ve started a new analysis on Coke’s hashtag engagement moving forward, and will report back in an upcoming blog.

Coke's FIFA World Cup hashtag campaign analysis

So what does all of this tell you about launching your own World Cup (or any other) campaign? The point is that social data matters, and so do the people behind that data.  If you can dig into that data enough to understand your audience on a very deep and personal level, then you’ve automatically pushed ahead of your competition when it comes to planning the tone and messages within your various campaigns.

Who Wins the Soda War?

The Coca-Cola campaign plays to inclusiveness, youth, uniqueness, togetherness, grandiosity and social good (think ‘Wholesome’).  The Pepsi campaign plays towards celebrity, playfulness, music, creativity, art and fun (think ‘Sophisticated’ or ‘Daring’).  According to our analysis of the FIFA audience, our vote goes to Coke.  But hats off to both campaigns!

Next week we’ll take a look at changes to the @FIFAWorldCup Personas as engagement increases, which might cause Marketers to tweak their real-time campaigns.  And we’ll compare two new ‘Big Brand’ campaigns that have staked their claim on the World Cup turf.

Want to start your own segmentation and hashtag analysis? Click here.