Teen retail's hottest lingerie brand is supercharging its biggest weapon against Victoria's Secret

Aerie/Ali MittonAerie’s new role models Rachel Platten (left), Yara Shahidi, and Aly Raisman are pictured along with Iskra Lawrence, one of Aerie’s best-known models.

  • American Eagle’s Aerie lingerie brand is known for its body-positive ad campaigns using “real” women.
  • The brand famously doesn’t Photoshop any of the images in its ads.
  • Today, it announced new “role models” for its spring campaign, including actress-activist Yara Shahidi, gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman, and singer-songwriter Rachel Platten.

Aerie is homing in on its most successful marketing tool.

The underwear brand announced Thursday that it is partnering with actress-activist Yara Shahidi, gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman, and singer-songwriter Rachel Platten for its spring campaign. These self-made women will become the new “role models” for the brand.

In addition to modelling the underwear and clothing at Aerie, the role models will hold motivational talks in Aerie stores and design a selection of exclusive products for the brand. 100% of the profits from these products will go to a charity of their choice.

Female empowerment has become Aerie’s biggest weapon against brands like Victoria’s Secret. Aerie swapped its airbrushed ads for unretouched photos and launched a body-positive campaign known as #AerieReal in 2014.

AerieAerie/Ali MittonIskra Lawrence was dropped from her first modelling agency for being ‘too big.’

The strategy appears to be paying off. Aerie has seen 11 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth while Victoria’s Secret, whose bread and butter has long been padded bras and sexy ad campaigns, saw negative sales growth for the past year.

Victoria’s Secret has been criticised for its rail-thin models who customers find unrelatable. Moreover, women are becoming savvy to tricks like Photoshop and increasingly don’t trust brands that use it, branding expert and University of Southern California marketing professor Jeetendr Sehdev told Business Insider’s Mallory Schlossberg in 2015.

“We have seen the backlash,” Sehdev said. “Those perfect bodies are not even the bodies of the Angels. And people know that now… people are fully aware, consciously or subconsciously, whether they are looking at a Photoshopped image.”

And those false images detract meaning for consumers.

“What consumers [are looking for] today more than anything else is meaning,” he said. “And meaning is going to come from relatability – ‘Can I really relate to this brand? Can I derive enough meaning out of this that it’s going to be good for me to engage and pay a premium?'”

Watch Aerie’s full campaign video here:

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