At 5:30 a.m. today, Vine star Logan Paul arrived at the Aéropostale store in Scottsdale's Fashion Square Mall in a pink Jeep. It's the culmination of a weeklong, national promotion for Aéropostale, which is offering the first 100 people to line up at stores today a chance to win a year of free clothes. The teen-oriented retailer is also advertising a Black Friday sale with 60% off everything in the store.
Paul is spending Black Friday helicoptering from Scottsdale to Los Angeles, touching down at Aéropostale stores to greet adoring fans and hand out a few passes good for a year's worth of free clothing. He's landing at heliports and then making his way to stores riding in a succession of awesome cars including a vintage Bentley.
A small crew that includes a producer, his personal videographer and his talent manager is traveling with Logan. They'll be producing Vines documenting the day and posting to Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat using the tag #FreeYearOfAero.
Paul has 8.7 million followers on Vine, making him the eighth most-followed user on the video-sharing platform. With 5.4 million Facebook followers (although he posts infrequently); 2.4 million followers on Instagram; and 1.2 million Snapchat followers, Paul is a sought-after social media influencer with a growing fan base. (He's also moving into traditional entertainment. This month, he starts filming Legendary Digital Entertainment feature-length thriller "The Thinning," co-starring with Peyton List.)
With consumers' use of social media on its way to overtaking website visits, brands that want to reach young consumers are increasingly turning to social media stars. Aéropostale needs all the help it can get. The retail chain lost money for the past 11 quarters, while traffic to malls in general has declined. So, the brand is hoping that these in-store celebrity appearances will kick start the holiday season.
It's a busy bandwagon. As of May 2015, an incredible 85% of global marcom professionals expected to launch at least one influencer marketing campaign within the next 12 months, according to a study by Augure. Maybe that's because they work. RhythmOne said that influencer campaigns on its platform from January through June of 2015 received $9.60 in earned media value for every $1.00 spent on paid media.
Scott Weller, chief revenue officer of Collective Digital Studio (CDS), the digital entertainment company that created the promotion for Aéropostale and hired Paul, says, "There is a segment of the audience that does not respond well to traditional advertising, but does respond well to content — and they trust these social influencers to provide that content. If we can figure out way to authentically integrate brand messages, it can be really powerful."
CDS also paid nine other social media influencers to post about #FreeYearOfAero beginning on Monday. They include Instagram heartthrob Julian Camarena, Viner George Janko, model and Instagrammer Tanner Zagarino and beauty vlogger Monica Church.
Brands that want to work with influencers have to cede creative control and trust that these young stars understand their audiences. Logan Paul is funny, athletic and squeaky clean. He's also brand-friendly. In November, he became a social media spokesperson for Dunkin' Donuts, promoting its mobile app and loyalty program.
"You have to match up the right audience. Most important, you have to make sure the brand and the creator both support and believe in the campaign in order for it to be successful," Weller says. "He's good about understanding brand objectives and what the brand is asking."
The fashion retailer has been all-in on social media since it rebranded in 2014. And in December 2013, it launched a clothing line inspired by Bethany Mota, a top YouTube fashion vlogger.
In August 2015, Aéropostale was the most powerful retail brand on Twitter, and the second most powerful on Instagram, according to Engagement Labs. The brand had the highest number of retweets, favorites, replies and mentions, according to the social analytics service.
But the social-media success and cred from the Mota alliance have done nothing so far to stop the revenue slide. (The company does not break out revenue from Mota's line, and it hasn't provided any details about whether it's boosting sales.)
Maybe the IRL appearance of a hunky blond guy doing the splits will get teens back to the mall. Aéropostale doesn't have the ability to attribute in-store sales to social media campaigns. But it will compare sales at the stores Paul visited to the rest of the 914 stores in the United States to see if the campaign moved the needle.
"Ultimately, they want to sell something," Weller says. "Having boots on the ground and the creator drive his audience to locations and maybe purchase something is the Holy Grail."