NRF 2023 – Under the Influence: Hollister on successful social collabs with content creators

Brand and content creator collaborations can drive big results – but authenticity must lie at the heart of the relationship if these collabs are to ring true to customers and have the desired outcomes.  And that makes finding the right partner with shared ideas, goals and expectations, critical, as Jacob Hawkins, Chief Marketing, Digital and Omni Officer at Forever 21, and Jacee Scoular, Sr. Director of Brand Strategy and Communications at Hollister Co., outlined at NRF’s Big Show in New York, earlier this week.

What makes a successful collab?

Key to connecting with Forever 21’s Gen Z audience, knowing the demographic spend four hours or more a day on social media, makes social channels the central pillar of its marketing and communications strategy.  This includes surrounding customers with a top-down and bottom-up approach to social.  Top-down, it integrates mega- and macro-influencers into seasonal campaigns and brand collaborations.  Bottom-up, they work with micro- and nano-influencers to drive key outfitting and shopping hauls.

Showcasing how it harnesses social reach across the business, Hawkins shared insights from the May 2022 Barbie X Forever 21, which featured major TikTok influencers including Livvy Dunny and Brook Monk both online and IRL at a launch party and across in-store advertising campaigns.

From ‘paid for’ one off collabs to long-term partnerships

A focus on long-term symbiotic relationships underpins Hollister’s approach to influencer and content creator partnerships.  Two years ago, the company moved away from a paid to post model in recognition of the importance of “human powered brand building”, leveraging customers to power the brand.

In 2021, it launched Social Tourist, building upon its successful relationship with social media personalities Charli and Dixie D’Amelio.  Additionally, the Hollister Creative Collective is a group of mid-tier creators who are contracted to the company for a year, enjoying access to retreats and summer trips, in return for creating branded social content each month.

Spotting social talent is a full-time job

Both brands retain staff who specialise in spotting social talent to ensure partnerships remain bleeding edge and relevant to their audiences with Hawkins explaining the combination of the right trend and the right influencer blows up a campaign in a way the brand could never do itself.

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