A retail powerhouse in the '90s and early aughts, Abercrombie & Fitch has in more recent years weathered a brutal comedown amid a broad consumer shift toward online shopping and growing preference for cheaper fast-fashion brands. To win back the young shoppers that once defined its image, Abercrombie has started to rework and modernize its apparel, store concepts and marketing strategy.
The latter piece of that revival included an integration with the E! Snapchat show "Face Forward" in the fall for an awareness campaign that drove a 4.5% lift in purchase intent and considerable foot traffic for the retail brand. "Face Forward," which stars three fashion and beauty stylists — Patrick Starr, Tiarra Monet and Johnny Wujek — blends the online how-to tutorial format with the types of makeover shows popular on TV to ultimately hit the audience sweet spot Abercrombie was looking for.
"They hadn't had a television spot in over a decade and this was the first time they were coming back," Laura Molen, EVP of the lifestyle and Hispanic advertising sales group at NBCUniversal, which owns the E! Entertainment network, said during a session at the IAB's Digital Video Symposium in New York City last week.
"They were looking to [...] bring in a new generation of shoppers," she said. "They said we're looking for fashion fanatics as well as adventure seekers."
Getting a brand makeover
Abercrombie, beyond being an exclusive launch partner for "Face Forward," integrated its products directly into the show and also ran advertising across E!'s Snapchat properties. The advertising portion included custom, branded 90-second content pods created by NBCU as a commercial innovation that lifted footage from "Face Forward" and aired on E! News' Snapchat show.
According to conservative estimates from Snapchat's proprietary Snap to Store tool for measuring incremental foot traffic, the retailer drove 40,000 people to stores over the course of the roughly two-month campaign. Snapchat rolled out Snap to Store last spring, and the service lets brands run ads on Snapchat and then track in-store visits from users who viewed the ad.
"[A&F's] KPI was awareness — they'd just re-launched their brand — and we were able, in partnership with E!, to give them so much more than awareness," Marni Schapiro, director of retail advertising at Snapchat, said during the talk.
On top of the 4.5% boost to purchase consideration, the campaign helped Abercrombie achieve a roughly 10% lift in brand favorability and a 15.4% jump in ad awareness. Perhaps more importantly, that awareness was being spread with the right kinds of shoppers.
Hitting the audience sweet spot
A major goal with Abercrombie's overarching "This is the Time" brand refresh was reaching a 21- to 34-year-old audience, and especially a "sweet spot" of 21- to 24-year-olds, per NBCU's Molen. "Face Forward" successfully captured that younger millennial and Gen Z cohort with its first two seasons, each running eight episodes. The show ended up being E!'s most-watched program on the Snapchat Discover portal for publishers, with an average of over 2.5 minutes of view time per episode, panelists said.
Of the audience tuning in, 36% were more likely to have shopped at Abercrombie compared to the average U.S. household. The retail brand, with the help of its partners, further enriched the ad content around "Face Forward" with the ability to swipe up to access an additional web view or watch longer-form video.
"They ran those ads across the Snapchat platform using very specific targeting through the auction, optimizing for efficiency and making sure that the ads were seen, engaged with and acted upon," Schapiro said.
More innovative approaches to marketing on platforms like Snapchat have potentially helped to bolster Abercrombie's bottom line in recent months. The company saw net sales for Q4 2017 rise 15% to $1.19 billion and same-store sales rise 9% year-over-year, marking its first positive comp in five years, according to Retail Dive.