American Eagle Brings its 'Denim Domination' to New York City's High Line
If you happened to be walking on New York City’s High Line Park the weekend of September 16 and 17, you likely recall the unusual and striking promotion from American Eagle that took over three of the public spaces in the park. The Gen Z-focused jeans company surprised and delighted consumers with dozens of jean-clad, half-body mannequins in three areas of the highly trafficked park. As a former agency owner and now digital marketer, I found the promotion to be a great example of how installations can merge with digital tools and performance to create a high-performing, multipronged and multichannel experience.
The High Line, a two-mile section of an old elevated rail track, is visited by 25,000 to 35,000 people a day who walk its landscaped path from 14th Street to 34th Street on New York City’s re-energized West Side. High Line visitors could interact with the mannequins in three park locations. In the 14th Street Passage, parkgoers walked through and among dozens of mannequins wearing different styles of American Eagle jeans, each of which could be purchased onsite using a QR code linked to the brand’s website. American Eagle staff members were signing up people for the company’s sweepstakes offer. The same mannequins appeared at the nearby Diller Von Furstenberg Sun Deck and at the 10th Avenue Square and Overlook, where visitors could join sitting mannequins as if they were all waiting with friends for a performance to begin.
While the tactical execution was well done, the promotion was part of a focused marketing strategy from American Eagle. According to Ashley Schapiro, vice president, marketing, media, performance and engagement, the company’s marketing strategy is “being present where our customer is and showing up in a highly relevant way. OMJeans came to life on the High Line — but also on social, our site, talent partners and OOH, including a 3D billboard in Times Square featuring AE jeans styles that jump out of the ad and ‘dance.’”
Schapiro described the promotion as a collaboration of a multitalented team. “Critical to connecting with Gen Z is engaging our very own team of Gen Z AE employees. Giant Spoon was a new partner for us and supported us on the ideation of the concept and all of the production. It was a seamless first partnership for us and Giant Spoon. On the PR front, SHADOW led talent, including Kenzie Ziegler's performance.”
Ryan Ervin, director of venue relations, and Alyssa Restaino, senior director of institutional giving, both from Friends of The Highline, noted they had had several good experiences in the past working with Giant Spoon and reached out to it to see if it had any projects in development that would take advantage of the High Line’s unusual spaces. American Eagle wouldn't divulge the total budget for the experience, but Erving and Restaino said for the High Line’s part, venue rental fees can run from $10,000 to $50,000.
Giant Spoon Partner and Co-Founder Trevor Guthrie said, “American Eagle was looking for promotions as a part of its back-to-school initiative. It wanted to bring a spotlight to its variety and diversity for consumers. We put it together very fast, about eight [weeks] to 10 weeks from start to finish.” Giant Spoon and American Eagle also teased the upcoming High Line event with a social media post that showed the mannequins leaving an American Eagle store and taking a subway to the High Line.
Asked about the ideation behind the promotion, Guthrie added, “From an experiential perspective, in a world of screens and distractions, having consumers interact with a brand in another way can be truly impactful. It can give consumers a natural progression into the brand.
Experiential is about telling a story from front to back. It’s an incredible way to get people involved with the brand.”
While unique spaces abound in New York and other cities, the High Line offers an ideal venue for brands to move park visitors along a path that can create Guthrie’s “natural progression into the brand.”
Asked what other promotions she would like to see from brands, the High Line’s Restaino said, “We’d like to see what an airline would do with the space.” If one does employ the same creativity as American Eagle, you may want to bring a parachute.
Jon Stamell is the founder and CEO of Oomiji, which enables brands to learn and activate their customers' insights, using their own language, to build loyalty and sales.
Related story: Customer Data Challenges and Opportunities for Luxury Brands