The Changing Face of Beauty: Aerie Responds to Millennials


Julie stars in Aerie Real’s spring 2016 campaign

Thanks to the Millennial generation, the social construct of beauty is slowly changing. As this very vocal generation demands a new portrayal of beauty, brands – if they are intent on reaching this demographic – need to consider new marketing methods to reach them – methods that are poised to completely overturn the way that this multibillion dollar industry operates. One brand that has responded to this cultural zeitgeist and has created an exceptionally successful brand image among Millennials is Aerie trough their #AerieReal campaign.


The first aerie Real campaign launched in 2014


The #AerieReal campaign launched in 2014, claiming that it would no longer use supermodels and would no longer touch up models, holding as its new brand message that “The Real You Is Sexy.” Jen Foyle, the Global Brand President for Aerie, mentioned in an interview with BuzzFeed that “our customers want honesty and they want to be heard.”

This desire for honesty and to be heard is largely owning to the fact that this demographic is incredibly social media savvy and active; they know the difference between Pinterest and Instagram and have hashtags and photo filters down to an art form. They also have developed their own voices, as they contribute to social platforms on a daily basis, and they know what they want. Having a voice and using it has resulted in brands like Aerie learning what is important to them and what they actually want. For the young female population, this has been a desire to see real people that they can identify with in fashion, particularly in something like lingerie and underwear in which they feel their most vulnerable and self-conscious. This “selfie generation,” despite seeming narcissistic, has a better understanding of how they actually look, how others in their social networks really look, and the difference between real and untouched photographs. In a world where bloggers, vloggers, and Instagrammers are the new icons to follow, this generation is one that looks up to real people and not Photoshopped models in magazines.

In fact, it’s not only the consumer population that is demanding more real portrayals in media and advertising, but young fashion and celebrity icons too, like Lorde and Zendaya, who call out magazines for their excessive use of Photoshop and voice their desire to be portrayed accurately. This is a generation of proud, confident young women who like who they are prefer to promote body positivity over unreal and unattainable portrayals of beauty.


Actress Emma Roberts appeared in aerie real’s fall 2015 campaign


Furthermore, the millennial consumer is one that thrives on connection and no longer respond to ads and conventional marketing. This social demographic is highly communicative and values a relationship and a dialogue in which they can participate; in other words, they respond to being spoken with instead of talked at.

The current Share Your Spark campaign is an incredible example of this, not only portraying #AerieReal models in all of their untouched glory, but also encouraging consumers to socially share their real selves on the Aerie social platforms, allowing them to embrace their bodies, their beauty, and getting them to shine. There is an extreme amount of power and influence in this social aspect. In fact, as Foyle noted, “social media has allowed us to engage with our girls in a whole new way…social media has changed the visual dialogue” (BuzzFeed). And this dialogue is a massive conversation with the potential to change the way that an entire generation of girls thinks about beauty and their own bodies.

Clearly people are responding to the #AerieReal message in a very real way; in only one year after its launch, “sales jumped 20%” and media impressions “rose to 4 billion” (BuzzFeed). Moreover, every post to the #AerieReal Instagram, Twitter, and other social platforms receives a flood of responses from consumers, some even thanking them, like this response from colleen__thompson on the Aerie Instagram account: “Hey @aerie! I bought this navy bathing suit specifically because of THESE photos! Thanks to you and your smart marketing team for encouraging me to get into this rad bikini!!”

This is another intriguing aspect of Millennials: they are smart and understand the ploys of marketing, they can tell when it’s good or bad marketing, but when it’s good and they can identify with and be inspired by the marketing message, then they are open and receptive to it.

Billions of consumers are responding to this marketing campaign because it upholds their core values and desires and it allows them to emotionally bond with the brand, while also feeling inspired, encouraged, and in general good about themselves. And that is beautiful.