Why American Eagle’s New Teen Brand is Doomed to Fail

No one likes a copycat.

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With the Brandy Melville teen takeover, American Eagle won’t win back their teen customers by being a copycat.

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Image source: American Eagle ae.com

According to the most recent research by Piper Jaffray in teen brands and spending, it looks like the #1 hot spot for teen apparel has been filled by none other than Brandy Melville. For many years, Forever 21 and American Eagle were the top. But like all things, what goes up, must come down. Nowadays, everything is fast and attentions are short. It’s not even enough for brands to stay abreast of trends. Sometimes, generations stick with brands they grew up on and often times, new brands are adopted by the next generation. It’s a cycle, like everything else. And I think Big Corp needs to accept they just can’t stay on top forever.

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Source: Piper Jaffray

Brandy Melville seemed to emerge almost overnight (although it’s been in USA since 2012). The beloved teen brand went viral thanks to Instagram and swooped in to take center stage of American Eagle’s teen audience.

So how did AE react to the competition? By creating Don’t Ask Why, a collection initially launched as the ‘Made in Italy’ collection in August 2013, and re-branded September ’14.

The motivation was to shift the collection to a brand to compete with Brandy Melville – and in doing so, they created some of the exact same styles, with the exact ‘one size’ sizing model, also made in Italy, and with similar pricing.

On the Left: Brandy Melville styles, on the Right: AE’s Don’t Ask Why styles

Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of the styles from this collection. And I love AE jeans a lot – which is what Brandy doesn’t have. There’s the weakness the execs missed.

So why do I think this new brand strategy is not going to work?  Because of several factors:

  1. The name is bad. ‘Don’t ask why’ What does that even mean?  Don’t ask why –what? Don’t ask why you’re knocking off a teen brand? Who came up with this? Using a negative or sarcasm in your brand name probably isn’t a good idea. I know, teens are sarcastic. But unless you are trying to hang with Nasty Gal, Local Heroes or Dolls Kill, I don’t suggest it. ‘Don’t Ask Why’ does not suggest: Made in Italy, sophisticated soft basics.
  2. Teens are not dumb. They can see what’s going on. Some will care, some will not. But for those who do, it’s kind of an insult to their intelligence.
  3. Brand Loyalty, Respect, Trust, Authenticity. Teens like Brandy because it is something to call their own, within a network that’s all their own. And it feels authentic to them. Teens like American Eagle for what it is. Awesome jeans and shorts. They may not be keen on a mainstream big box brand taking on an indie vibe for the masses. Just like Snapchat, teens like things where adults aren’t. 
  4. Collabs and social media works pretty well. Working out an underground collab with teens and teen models on IG with Brandy and AE jeans and shorts would have been a much better strategy to win back teen audience and gain influence as one of America’s #1 denim brands. Perhaps a strong social media strategy including hundreds – no, thousands of awesome shots of top influencers wearing your AE brand with the Brandy Melville brand. Brandy doesn’t do denim. But a lot of their shots on IG are girls in denim. The question you should have asked is, “why aren’t they wearing AE denim, and how can we fill that gap?”
  5. Unique is important for teens. Teens like finding clothes that set them apart from the others, mixing and matching styles they like. Teens like vintage, new, obscure, different and trendy. Jumping on a bandwagon, creating almost the exact same styles and competing with their favorite brand (and in some cases, charging more) may not win them over. It’s not original. It looks like a desperate attempt. If they want a mainstream brand to wear that emulates Brandy, they will head to Forever21, who is the queen of cheap, knock-off styles.
  6. Leader or Follower? Again, everyone expects F21 to knock off everyone, and it’s pretty much OK because they are a fast fashion company whose schtick is to offer whatever is trendy. But coming from AEO, the biggest American brand, it’s surprising, and may raise doubts.
  7. The brand message is confusing. I don’t understand how the one brand “Don’t Ask Why” can be a testing ground for your main brand “American Eagle”, with two separate labels. In an interview with Racked, Chad Kessler, AE Global Brand President states, “We use ‘Don’t Ask Why’ as a kind of testing lab for the American Eagle brand. For example, the team came back from Coachella with new silhouettes we hadn’t incorporated into the American Eagle collection yet, and now we have those in the works with ‘Don’t Ask Why’. We’ll bring those into ‘Don’t Ask Why’ stores in the next month or so, and if they work, we’ll roll them out for American Eagle.”  Man, WTF?
  8. Stick to What you Know. Denim is the key AE product and their kryptonite; not many big box retailers do it quite as good as AE in fit, quality, variety and price. Girls, teens and adults LOVE American Eagle denim. They just need to stick with that and not be something they’re not in an attempt to gain customers by “chasing” what’s already being done well. Teens love vintage high waist jeans. Don’t believe me, check out these vintage AEO shorts.  AE should do more of that.
  9. Many may not be OK with the ‘one size fits most’ strategy. In fact. Brandy has faced a lot of backlash from news, bloggers, customers and moms with it’s ‘one size’ (which is Small) strategy. A petition was launched at Change.org against American Eagle and Brandy with a “Stop the misrepresentation of women by the “One Size Fits All” label in clothing stores”

That’s my two cents. We all understand that imitation is the best form of flattery, but..no one likes a copycat.

 

Image sources: Brandy Melville, AE.com

7 Awesome Twitter Ads That Are Killing It

Here are a few recent ads I found that speak louder than any red lettering could, and why I think they rock

The secret to a successful ad creative online is to bring something interesting, memorable, entertaining and/or useful to the platform audience without making people feel like they are being ‘sold’ to.  Marketing has evolved. We (consumers) are no longer moved to respond to big red SALE letters (unless it’s already at a brand website we go to, and it says 70-90% off).

Remember these kinds of ads? Bleh.

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Yeah. We are tuned out to this.

Here are a few recent ads I found that speak louder than any red lettering could, and why I think they rock:

This ad creative from Starbucks is quick, interesting, fresh, entertaining and informative. It’s also very memorable. After a few loops, I will never forget the image of that drink jumping out of the phone.

This one is just flat out entertaining. As a Photoshop gal, I immediately went to the thought of, “How’d they do this?” It’s entertaining, first and foremost. It grabbed my attention. Secondly, I discover their cool app which allows me to earn free drinks. Double stars for Starbucks for entertainment and information.

I am not a fan of McDonald’s food, or their company much. But they nailed it with this ad creative. It combines the current event of Coachella with the star power of Kylie Jenner, wrapped in a Selfie/Instagram style photo. The breakfast sandwich is part of the mood and landscape, and it honestly makes fans of Kylie or Coachella want to either jump into the photo or grab a McDs Egg McMuffin. In fact, if you scroll through McD’s Twitter feed, you will see that this ad creative by and FAR outperformed ALL of their other posts. Well played guys.

This one is great because it’s simple and cute. Target took a moment to join in on the fun of a national hashtag as well as throw in brand awareness with their bullseye pup. The result is a friendly brand reminder with a puppy. It’s not intrusive, it’s just cute.

I love so many things about this photo ad. It’s posted from Caitlyn Jenner’s Twitter account with one of her new MAC lipstick colors. The awesomeness of this photo as an ad creative is: it’s multi-faceted. It combines an image that is quick to process, her name on the cup (could be a Starbucks collab ad, too) with the lip print. This photo says SO much in a simple way that is again, not intrusive.

This is one (of many ads) that killed it so much that the Bagel Store in New York now has a waiting list for their rainbow bagels. It’s bright, colorful, tells the story and includes the bagel store signage in the background. The first thing they give you is the colorful photo, though.

This one is probably one of my favorites (and I’m not even a fan of Chevy). I am a fan of Price Ea, so when I saw him collaborating with Chevy, I had to click on it.  The content and his words are so inspiring that I literally was almost moved to misty.  Who cares if it’s pushing Chevy.  It was brilliant.

Got an interesting ad creative to share?  Send it my way, or leave a link in the comments section below.

5 Reasons Why Your Customers Aren’t Responding

Hint: It’s probably not what you think

 

You have built your website and it’s awesome.  Your product photos are great, your prices are great, your services are great. You’re on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. The Followers are trickling in. Heck, maybe you are getting decent traffic with minimal effort.

But nobody is really responding (i.e. buying, commenting, signing up, etc.).

What the hell is going on?

In a previous post,  we learned the importance of Social Media Marketing and how it is your most important advertising and marketing platform.

I was all over the Shopify forums yesterday, and ‘Why isn’t anyone buying?’ was the single most question asked by all of the shop owners. They post the link to their site and ask for constructive feedback from others. Many responders have good advice, but a lot of it was very much surface stuff.  

At the core of all successful marketing, I feel there has to be some kind of emotional connection established between brand and customer.

1. Are you providing anything worth sharing?

Overall, the products weren’t bad on the Shopify stores, and the websites looked fine. The one thing I did notice, however, was that most of these stores lacked sharable content (or a connection). Some of the products were cute, but it wasn’t enough for me to press the ‘share’ button. One woman had an awesome sauce product.  I mean, literally, she produces homemade sauces.  But there was no blog, no recipes, no customer feedback assuring me that her sauces were in fact, awesome.  There was also no Bio with a photo, no ‘About the Company’ and no story. The product photos were very pretty, but there wasn’t a compelling enough story for me to share that with my Pinterest audience, or to feel a connection to her (because I didn’t know who she was).  

Prepared foods can be a hard sell, unless we’re talking about cookies.  Cookies definitely sell online. Just ask this lady.

If you aren’t creating buzz, perhaps you can ask yourself if you can do something more to create that customer connection.

“Research by Ipsos suggests people shopping with online sellers also want a personal connection. The best engagement means connecting with the real person behind the storefront”. – Karl Wellman

2. Approach marketing from the Consumer point of view

When you find yourself at a new website you’ve never been to before, think about HOW you got there in the first place:

  1. Was it a referral from a trusted source: a Friend, relative, online influencer, website or celebrity
  2. Did you search for a specific item through Google search
  3. Was it a killer marketing ad you just had to click on (visuals matter)
  4. A catchy headline that hooked you in on Twitter, LinkedIn or Reddit
  5. A tantalizing photo on Pinterest of a decadent chocolate cake recipe
  6. Or, a photo of a chic outfit that’s amazing or cheap, and you either save it for later (Pinterest), or buy it right now if you go to their website. 

    Case Studies:

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This recipe was Pinned over 6,300 times
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This cardigan received over 245,000 pins. 

 

Do you understand the value of shareable content now?

 

People want to be a part of sharing helpful, interesting, funny, compelling or beautiful information. If you are not providing at least two of those things with your content or product, you probably won’t get the social media traction you’re seeking.

The first thing you should do as a business (or a blogger) is create rich content.  Show or tell the story of your product and how it benefits the world, speak to the world about what you know.  Your story can focus on beautiful photography,  humor, awesome recipes, information, or videos. Whatever your platform is, the point is to create tools that make it easy for an audience to be engaged, and then inspired enough to share whatever it is you do.

Good examples:  Song of Style, The Oatmeal, Kickstarter, The Chive, Refinery 29


3. Are You Thinking Like Your Customer?


In relation to HOW you arrived at a new website, think about your perception once you got there.  As creators, it’s hard to look at our own website through the eyes of a stranger in a new place.  Which is who your customer is when she lands on your .com.
If you aren’t sure, compare your site side-by-side to a website you shop at, or find a new one you’ve never been to before and ask yourself how you feel about it upon entering and what your initial thoughts are and WHY.  Write down your thoughts and comments.

Do a side-by-side comparison with a similar competitor’s website and ask yourself:

  • What are they doing
  • What do they have
    and/or
  • What do they offer (that adds value) – that I am not currently doing?  

Be honest with yourself, because your honesty will only help you get to where you’re wanting to go.

It could be something as much as a higher marketing budget or more effort on your part, a team to assist you; maybe you need more social media interaction, or something as simple as better photos, a more cohesive look, or even using a cleaner look or font on your website.

Are you trying to align your brand in a ShopJeen space or an Anthropologie space?  If it’s the latter, consider a thorough walk through of Anthropologie and see how you can take their visual queues and replicate it to what you’re doing.

In the case of CupShe, as mentioned above, it receives tons of Pin shares for it’s products. CupShe.com appears to be a Shopify site.  It’s overall look is clean and simple.  It’s prices are dirt cheap and it’s product selections are pretty cute.  The company is most likely a foreign-based website, which is easy to figure out considering the pricing, products (I have seen these same products from a lot of vendors overseas), and grammatical errors. But my overall first impression is a good one. I don’t know who this  company is but the website looks professional. I can see there are tons of good reviews so it must be OK. My brain ticks “trust” and so I browse a little.

With just that little bit of assurance, I am more inclined to buy from an unknown place. It also doesn’t hurt that the prices are cheap, so I am not risking too much. Trust is also a key factor for new businesses building a customer base. In order to build trust, you have to either gather testimonials or make sales.  It’s like that weird scenario of how credit builds credit, but when you don’t have credit, you can’t get credit, etc.

You might have to consider giving some things away at first to build credit, so to speak. This is where influencer/blogger outreach can come in handy.

4. Do you know who your (target) customer is?

Do you know who you your audience is?  If so, are you speaking their language?
Are you creating products that they want, in prices they understand and marketing on platforms with the visuals they see while speaking the language they understand?  It’s a lot to think about but if you give it enough thought, you can connect the dots and make sense of it.  For example, I worked for a company in 2011 who was still producing products for their 1990 customer, but hoping to target the Millennials.  Their products and marketing strategies were not only speaking another language, but they weren’t even in the same hang outs with who they wanted to reach. Their audience was the 1998 girls who grew up to be the 2011 moms. So as a result, their message was very unclear, and the collection was a convoluted mess.  If you don’t know who your audience is, how can you speak to them in their language?

Here are three great examples of brands who know who their customer is and know how to reach and engage them:

1. Wildfox.com  Wildfox is that SOCAL, vintage inspired laid back brand for 20-somethings.  Most of their marketing efforts are on Instagram.  Why? Because that’s where their audience is. Their Instagram fan feed on their website is awesome

2. Justin Bieber  Yep, the YouTube music sensation.  He got into the hearts and homes everywhere with his YouTube Music Channel (The original channel has since been changed and moved to VEVO).  It’s where all the kids hang out, and it’s #1 audience interest is Music, followed by Gaming and Sports. Justin was able to reach his audience on a very personal level here.

3. Apple Apple is the prime example of a company who knew how to connect with their customer on a very personal level.  It doesn’t get much more personal than creating the iPod or your iPhone, does it?  They didn’t just create products, though, they created a culture that everyone wanted to be a part of.

“Apple has a branding strategy that focuses on the emotions. The starting point is how an Apple product experience makes you feel. The Apple brand personality is about lifestyle; imagination; liberty regained; innovation; passion; hopes, dreams and aspirations; and power-to-the-people through technology”.
MarketingMinds.com.au

5. Are you keeping up, visually?

A last question to ask yourself is are you using strong visuals? Strong visuals get you noticed, but you probably already know that. You know what makes you click on, ‘Like’ or share something. It’s not something we always consider, but it’s a crucial element in getting attention on social media.  Like everything, visuals on social media moves in trends.  Keeping up with those changing trends will keep your content fresh and relevant.  

More helpful info: What are the Top 3 Trends in Social Media Images right now

What is the cost of social media marketing?

Make sure you budget for marketing, because a funny thing happens when you don’t do it: Nothing.

 

How much does social media marketing cost?  That seems to be a burning question everyone is asking.  Ok, now don’t freak out…

But the short of the long of it is:

A minimum of $2,500-$5,000 on average per month, depending on where your target audience is and what you want to achieve.

Sometimes, you have to pay extra for PR or blog content writing. A lot of those $2,500K-$5K prices may or may not be all-inclusive deals.  And it’s not unusual to find many agencies who charge $10,000 per month for social media marketing & management.  

According to some data findings, the cost to create and establish just a new Twitter account with targeted Followers and a little bit of content is anywhere from $2K-$7,500.
So I guess the average $2,500-$5,000 isn’t so bad when you consider the fact that some agencies charge $5,000 – just to manage your Facebook account. Nothing else.
Just Facebook.

$5,000 per month for a Social Media Marketer seems “high” because we spend so much time online, doing just that: interacting socially and participating in social media.  Our perception of social media is “fun time”,  it hasn’t registered to us that this is THE advertising platform. 

Wherever the audience is, advertising follows. Once it was Newspapers, Magazines, Radio, TV.  Now, it’s online through our news and blogger channels and our Social Media feeds.

If we can look at it from a media platform we are used to, such as Magazines, we can truly see the value and the difference: We have magazine readers, and we have magazine creators.

We don’t see all of the behind-the-scenes magic that happens to make that content available and in our face. That is what advertising is, and what Social Media Marketing is all about.

Ok, I get it.   But.. Why so much?

Let’s break it down:

  • Graphics and Social Media Ad Creatives  The cost of social media graphics and ad creatives – this includes a professional graphic designer with marketing knowledge to create visual ads that deliver results.  There is a psychology behind an ad creative that works. This isn’t the job for just any Joe Schmo Photoshop Pro when it comes to creating a fine-tuned ad creative. The average salary of a Graphic Designer is anywhere from $45-$60K per year, with some earning as much as $75K.
  • Market research  This is a very important aspect of advertising.  You have to zero in on your target audience. It makes no sense to shoot your product out into the universe if it’s not aimed at the right audience.  Market research answers: Who is your audience, what do they want, what are the buying, what do they respond to, where do they hang out and who are your competitors?
  • Ad rates The costs of promoting you or your business. Ad rates are generally included in a market budget, and an average and conservative cost can be anywhere from $250-$500 month for Twitter and Facebook Ads alone.
  • PR Writing and crafting the perfect pitches, reaching out to Bloggers, Editors, Magazines, Influencers and even celebrities.  This aspect is HARD WORK. A lot of PR agents I know charge $5K per month, just for PR.  Nothing else.
  • Creating Marketing Campaigns, Calendars + Strategies. Sometimes creating a marketing campaign can take days (or even weeks) to not only research and plan, but to write it out. (One simple 3 month marketing campaign I created a few weeks ago took me over 16 hours to research, create and write.) This takes a lot of time, but executed well, it pays off.
  • Writing Press Releases
  • Writing Blog Posts – Rich content blog posts are worth their weight in gold to the tune of saving you about $250,000 in Google Adwords costs. A well-written blog post with organic traffic can harness as much, if not more traffic, as an expensive Google Adwords campaign. One single blog post I wrote in 2011 has generated 256,000 hits for my blog so far.  If I would have paid the average $1 CPC (Cost-per-Click) with Google Adwords, it would have cost me $256,000! 😮
    Blog writers know their stuff when it comes to SEO, and they craft their posts to maximize search results.  According to ClicktoTweet and HubSpot, “Articles with a word count between 2,250 and 2,500 earn the most organic traffic”.  A good blog writer will charge around .45 cents per word on average, so a 1,000 word post is $450. For example, this post you’re reading right now is 1,326 words (or about $600).
  • Social Media Manager A full time (daily) social media manager to monitor your accounts, create engaging posts, interact, respond to positive (and negative) feedback across all channels.  I’m talking about a dedicated person who not only knows the ins and outs of social media, but one who works on all your social media accounts all day (Instagram, Reddit, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook), and knows how to track and analyze the data.  This is a full time job and if you were to pay him or her a salary, it would probably cost you a minimum of $45K/yr. ($3,750/mo)


What the hell? Now, I’m kinda bummed.

If you already have an established Twitter or Facebook account, it could be a little more cost effective, because you won’t have to start from scratch and what you’ll need is a social media manager to maintain and manage your accounts: (i.e. keep them flowing, interact, grow your followers, establish relationships, and build brand awareness).  So, If you were to hire someone full time to manage your account, not create contests, promotions or ads, it would most likely cost a minimum of $40K per year, which is a salary of $3,300/mo.
(If you want someone part time, you can probably find a SMM who is good at what he/she does and is just starting out.)

 

Snapchat_Logo

$750,000

This is how much Snapchat costs per ‘Brand Story’ ad, which is a branded post that appears within the app’s ‘Stories’ feed.
(update: 12/2015 The minimum budget for advertising on Snapchat recently dropped from $700,000+ to $100,000)

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Scared yet?  Don’t be.  Advertising has always been costly but it’s vital to business growth.
And sometimes, businesses just aren’t ready yet.

People scratch their heads in confusion when things aren’t selling, or when customers aren’t responding.  I’ve been there before.  I’d think, “I’m doing everything right!” when the truth is, I was just not giving enough to my marketing budget or plan.

We all want to see fantastic results, but what we don’t see is the costs associated with the results we want.  And it can be overwhelming at first, but once the momentum starts, it all starts working pretty harmoniously.  Better budget for advertising = more sales = more advertising budget = even more sales, etc.

“It’s nearly impossible to do PR and Social Media Marketing on your own, unless you have tons of time, are super-savvy (creatively), and have a team to help out.
Make sure you budget anywhere from 15-20% of your annual income for marketing, because a funny thing happens when you don’t do it: Nothing.   Meanwhile, you see competitors with the same products as you doing it and going global.  If you want to succeed, there is no other choice. It needs to be a financial priority in your business plan and must be factored in as a cost to doing business”.

In the quickly moving digital world we now live in, we simply can’t wait for our audience and business to come to us. Social media is where all of the attention is these days. We stream Netfix online, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon.  We are plugged in to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

This is where the audience of the world is today, and if you aren’t finding a way to reach them through these channels, you’re kind of on another planet.  If you take your business seriously, find a way to either amp up your social media marketing time per day or hire a professional to help you grow your business.  You honestly can’t afford not to.