Fashion brands geared towards teens have to employ an assortment of creative tactics to reach and engage the increasingly informed and fickle audience.
Aeropostale, the quintessential teen fashion brand, knows that to connect with its audience, it needs to align with causes that are at the heart of its consumer.
The brand's recent "Teens for Jeans" initiative - a joint project with the group Do Something - is a CSR effort that engages consumers by asking them to get involved in a cause for teen homelessness.
"Our goal is to collect 100,000 pairs of jeans. They're going to be distributed to 500 charities in all the local markets, which, in turn, will be donated to homeless teens," says Scott Birnbaum, SVP of marketing for Aeropostale. Jump-starting the program, the company donated 10,000 pairs of new jeans.
The campaign, which ran from January 22 to February 10, was driven primarily by a vast network of in-store associates who spread the news to customers via word of mouth, and also online at Teensforjeans.com. Two well-known celebrities from the teen pop culture world, Rachel Bilson from The O.C. and Hayden Christensen from the Star Wars series, shot a PSA, which was shown in high schools around the country, on stations like CBS, ESPN, and BRAVO, and on various social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace.
While the company is moving into the online social networking space, "We don't rely on one vehicle to carry the message because we're dealing with teenagers," notes Birnbaum, "and they don't absorb media in one continuous spot."
Rather, the company adopts a multi-faceted communications strategy, including media outreach to Teen Vogue, Cosmo Girl, and Seventeen magazines, as well as in-store communications.
While social initiatives can be a good way to get teens to engage with a brand, this group is also attracted to programs and events that tie into their calendar and lifestyle.
Southpole, the urban streetwear brand, hosts an annual "Stay in School" program, which has been successful because of its timeliness and relevance.
Working with its PR agency, Think PR, the company uses the program to take its products to consumers in middle and high schools throughout the country, talk with them about why it's important to get a good education, and then share ideas about fashion.
"Since Southpole represents a multicultural diversified consumer mix, it's important for us to get the message across that Southpole caters to everyone," notes David Strumeier, VP of marketing.
Southpole also uses various events to reach out to its end user. The company is the major apparel sponsor of Seventeen's "Rock the Runway" tours - events that take place at malls around the country about 10 times a year. Held in the spring and fall, they usually draw about 5,000 attendees, with such features as a style professional who offers fashion advice, model casting, and a hip-hop dance presentation.
Moving forward, Strumeier says Southpole will seek a heavier online presence, first by launching a new, user-friendly, interactive Web site on Mysouthpole.com in May. The site will feature shopping, networking, and cross-interaction using Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Google.
Victoria's Secret Pink is one brand that is already engaging its consumers through the use of new and social media. Through its site, VSPink.com, consumers have the opportunity to opt into mobile text-messaging, become a Pink "friend" through MySpace, check out new bands, and take campus tours, as well as receive special offers. The brand also has a very sizeable Facebook group - approximately 350,000 members - as well as a MySpace group.
The company communicates brand news, events, and special offers to the large, active online Pink community. "A lot of the excitement amongst this demographic is learned through word of mouth, so we found that leveraging these sorts of communities and our Web site is a great way to let them know what we're up to," says Sara Tervo, VP of PR for VS Pink.
Teens these days are growing up in a celebrity-obsessed tabloid culture, so one way to engage them is through events that feature those stars. For two years, VS Pink has kicked off the back-to-school season with "The World's Largest Pajama Party," organized in part by Alison Brod PR, the company's AOR. The first year's event took place in New York City and featured a performance from Ashlee Simpson. Last year, the event was in Chicago, where both DJ AM and pop star Fergie performed.
According to Tervo, more than 5,000 Pink pajama-clad girls attended, with a pop-up store on site. Girls could shop for products that hadn't been released yet in stores.
"We have a good arsenal of celebrities who love the Pink brand, so we like to keep those relationships strong," Tervo notes. Teenage girls, especially, she notes, look to different celebrities as fashion icons, and a celebrity wearing VS Pink products helps to sell the line and gives it a special appeal.
With fickle teens jumping from one fashion brand to another, it's a balancing act to stay relevant and "cool" in the eyes of this consumer group. "What VS Pink does is it listens to the customer, pays attention to the fashion trends, and stays true to the brand," says Tervo.
Fashion Web sites geared toward teens
The online community allows members to seek advice from style guru 'Fashion Girl' on what styles work best for certain body types; start a fashion club at school; and discover "Fab Finds" - items that can be purchased for $50 or less.
All-encompassing site with a separate teen fashion section. In it, the editor engages readers with a fashion faux pas post, the latest trends from Fashion Week shows, examples of celebrity fashion, and tips on finding the perfect prom dress.
In addition to an online catalog of clothing and accessories, this site also offers features on various fashion and beauty trends. It also has a message board - not only for style and beauty topics, but also dating and entertainment.
With the tagline "Style is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma," this blog features quirky posts highlighting what celebrities are wearing, new products out in the market, and the author's take on new fashion trends.