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American Eagle Embraces Music and Metaverse for Back-To-School Promo

Just in time for back-to-school (BTS) shopping, American Eagle is making its Gen Z customers listen to and interact with some of their favorite music acts with initiatives that span the metaverse, in-store activations and a DIY video contest on TikTok’s new music marketing and distribution platform SoundOn.

“This season, we are excited to offer our community multiple ways to express their personal style through a series of activations meant to inspire customers to pair the jeans they love with the music they love,” said Jennifer Foyle, president and chief creative officer of American Eagle (AE) and its sister brand Aerie. “As a leader in innovation, American Eagle is the first to partner with TikTok’s SoundOn platform to continue to collaborate with emerging creators and artists and provide them with a space where they can share their passion for music with the world.”

SoundOn, which launched in March, allows artists to upload their music directly to TikTok and over 90 other platforms to earn royalties. American Eagle signed TikTok artist Katherine Li, who has almost 418,500 followers and more 16.3 million likes on the platform, to perform a version of her upcoming release “Happening Again.” The brand has declared the song as its BTS anthem for the season. Li and five other creators launched a two-day hashtag challenge, or HTC, on Tuesday that invites users to make their own video for the melody while wearing AE jeans and using the hashtag #AEJeansSoundOn. American Eagle will select three winners who will each receive a $3,000 gift card and whose homemade videos will be broadcast on the brand’s billboard in Times Square.

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The retailer also worked with virtual reality (VR) headset Meta Quest 2 and online game platform Roblox as part of the new campaign.

On Friday the BTS campaign headliner Blu DeTiger performed her song “Vintage” on Roblox where viewers could interact with her by pressing like buttons. The event also included a virtual scavenger hunt in which participants could unlock BTS-themed AE toys and plushies.

The following day a behind-the-scenes 360 Meta Quest 2 video launched in eight American Eagle stores across the country. The video, shot with VR technology, can also be seen beyond the store’s walls through FB 360 Video or YouTube 360 video.

While inventive and in-tune with the likes of Gen Z, the campaign is not exactly revolutionary in the fashion-meets-music-in-the-metaverse space. Just last month AE competitor PacSun launched its BTS denim collection with a new all-denim shop on Roblox, a new Pac Mall Rat NFT and an in-store concert at its New York flagship by the young pop star and 2016 “America’s Got Talent” winner Grace VanderWaal. “We’re really excited about opportunities for [music] performances in the metaverse and virtual performances, for example, on our Roblox platform,” Pacsun president Brie Olson told Sourcing Journal at the time.

Tommy Hilfiger has also jumped on the Roblox bandwagon. It launched a digital collection to be worn by the platform’s avatars in December 2021. Other famous fashion names with a current presence in the Roblox landscape include Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Givenchy and Nike.

The new American Eagle campaign and its wooing of youth also reflects the brand’s return to its roots–at least when it comes to denim. In October 2021 it launched the denim collection AE77, a premium, sustainable offering that targeted an older demographic. The short-lived offshoot even had two standalone stores: one in SoHo and the other in The King of Prussia Mall near Philadelphia.

However, just six months in, the company officially pulled the plug on the new collection in April 2022.

It has not formally or specifically commented on the line’s rapid disappearance. However, Jay Schottenstein, American Eagle Outfitter’s executive chairman of the board and CEO, said in its Q1 2002 report: “The first quarter proved challenging, with demand well below our expectations, pressuring operating profit. Comparisons from an extraordinary spring last year driven by stimulus payments and pent-up customer demand, were compounded by rising inflation, higher gas prices and a stronger than anticipated pivot to other discretionary categories. In hindsight, our plans entering the year were too optimistic. We are taking swift measures to adjust our inventory and expense base with a firm goal of entering the second half better aligned with demand trends.”

The brand now seems to have met its customers’ demands—at least fashion-wise. The new BTS denim collection is chock full of style trends currently embraced by Gen Z including girls’ low-rise looks, cargo pants and skater trousers inspired by the 1990s and mom and flare jeans paired with Western-style accessories. For guys, the label is pushing soft flannel sets, 1990s-inspired straight silhouettes in both stretch and rigid denim, athletic fit jeans and baseball and bucket hats in twill and corduroy.