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.

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