• Jini Kong

Hollister enters shaky back-to-school period with campaign led by top TikTok talent


  • Hollister is working with some of TikTok's most popular content creators for a back-to-school marketing campaign centered on the brand's jeans, per details shared with Mobile Marketer.

  • The Abercrombie & Fitch label enlisted sisters Charli and Dixie D'Amelio, Noah Pugliano and TV personality Bill Nye to serve as "Jeanealogists" who will run video experiments that test the quality of Hollister denim. Hollister will share the content across its social media channels and in store locations.

  • The D'Amelio sisters and Pugliano also designed a #MoreHappyDenimDance TikTok hashtag challenge that asks users to share their "happy dance" while wearing Hollister jeans. Participants who post a video of the dance have the chance to win a virtual meet-and-greet with the D'Amelios, who will appear in other Hollister digital activations and in-store events throughout the fall.


Hollister's latest back-to-school campaign checks a lot of boxes for what's resonating with the brand's target audience of teens and young adults. However, the coronavirus pandemic and mounting government scrutiny have the potential to disrupt school reopenings and TikTok's future in the U.S., respectively, which could in turn create a serious impact on retail sales and marketing for the fall season.

The light-hearted "Jeanology" push, which riffs on the idea of conducting science experiments with Bill Nye, still has a lot going for it. As part of the campaign, Hollister entered a long-term partnership with the D'Amelios, who rank among the most popular content creators on TikTok, which is one of the fastest-growing social media apps in the U.S. The tie-up extends beyond social media content, as the D'Amelios' hand-selected denim picks will receive a special tag in stores and online. Hollister has enlisted Pugliano as a brand ambassador since 2017.

TikTok also continues to have a particularly strong hold on the attention of Gen Z: The percentage of U.S. consumers ages 13 to 35 who use the ByteDance-owned app rose to 27% in April from 19% in January, according to Civic Science data, as the service saw a surge in activity as a result of the coronavirus.

Competitors in the hard-hit retail category have recently leveraged TikTok to viral success. American Eagle Outfitters, another brand focused on young shoppers, ran an #AerieRealPositivity campaign earlier this year that generated almost 2 billion impressions. As foot traffic was decimated, the effort helped support the brand's digital business and similarly starred Charli D'Amelio, who commands an audience of 71.4 million followers on TikTok.

While some retail stores have started to reopen, pandemic recovery efforts in the states have generally been patchy amid climbing cases of COVID-19. It's possible that those locations will need to shutter yet again if the spread of the virus is not controlled. Retail sales for the back-to-school period are expected to be flat compared with last year, according to Deloitte.

The ways schools will operate is also an open question, and one that carries implications that could make back-to-school marketing — typically a safe bet for companies like Hollister — trickier territory this year. 

At the same time, TikTok's future in the U.S. appears imperiled. The app's links to China through its parent company ByteDance have drawn increasing government scrutiny, with the White House indicating that action could be taken against TikTok in the coming weeks, The Verge reported.

Hollister's campaign extends beyond the video app to cover all of the brand's social media channels, as well as in-store activations, but the combination of outside factors could negatively affect its reach.

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