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Lingerie retailer Aerie has been hitting the right notes with its consumers. Its successful, ongoing #AerieReal campaign features unretouched images of everyday women wearing the line’s product. The latest images released by the campaign go even further, in an effort to demonstrate the brand’s deep commitment to inclusivity and body positivity.

The female models in the campaign all display a visible, difficult medical condition, disease, or disability, as well as the brand’s lingerie. For example, a diabetic woman poses with her insulin pump attached to her bra; another model prominently displays her ostomy bag; and the Paralympic gymnast Chelsea Werner, who has Down’s Syndrome, is a celebrity endorser. The message to girls and women is clear: All bodies are beautiful, and the brand can be worn by anyone, regardless of the challenges she may face.

The brand first announced its policy to stop retouching images used in its marketing, stores, and website in January 2014. The response from consumers was widely positive and supportive, prompting the retailer to expand on its ethical stance and incorporate average women in its marketing, not just professional models.

Among its professional models though, it also featured Aly Raisman, the Olympic gymnast who testified about the sexual abuse she suffered for years by a U.S. Gymnastics doctor. Raisman appears in an attractive swimsuit, with the word “Survivor” printed prominently across the front, highlighting her history but also her refusal to let the abuse limit her.

When the company held an open casting call on its social media platforms, it identified women with disabilities and other challenges that could be featured and celebrated. The #AerieReal campaign thus has allowed the retailer to display its core values and connect with a broad base of customers, and in so doing, it has enjoyed the benefits of positive buzz about and interest in its brand.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do these campaigns make you more or less likely to buy from Aerie?
  2. How is this company benefitting by living up to its ethical ideals?

Source: Diana Pearl, “Aerie Continues Its ‘Real’ Streak, Casting Models with Illnesses and Disabilities,” Adweek, July 12, 2018; Katie Richards, “What Brands Need to Know to Successfully Market Feminism in the #MeToo Era,” Adweek, August 6, 2018