American Beagle Outfitters has pulled off a neat trick.
The dog clothing line cooked up by the pranksters at American Eagle Outfitters proved so viral and appealing that the South Side teen clothing retailer is even now lining up ways to make the April Fool’s joke into merchandise available online and in stores by late fall.
“The name is kind of what drove this whole thing,” said Bob Holobinko, vice president of brand management, after the company officially confirmed Tuesday that, yeah, it started out as a joke announced last week and then picked up the kind of momentum that typically requires a cute cat video.
At some point after the March 24 launch — as social media buzzed with people hoping the clothing line for pups would be available for purchase — Mr. Holobinko said the American Eagle team decided, “We’ve got to do this for real.”
Among the more impressive parts of the prank was that this is the second year in a row American Eagle has managed to come up with a viral April Fool’s joke. Mr. Holobinko acknowledged that after last year’s “skinny skinny jeans” fake product launch — the jeans were actually realistic-looking paint on models — fooling people twice might be harder.
But there were signs even before this year’s plan went public that it would be a good one. The idea quickly spread about company headquarters months earlier. “Before you knew it, the whole building was buzzing,” Mr. Holobinko said.
A “dogumentary” was filmed mainly using dogs owned by people connected with American Eagle or companies that work with the business. They didn’t have to look far, he said, because it turned out most everybody had pets.
The video was made by Downtown shop Animal, which has been involved in real documentaries in addition to commercial work. “We were literally editing the piece in production days before the spot aired,” Mr. Holobinko said.
The behind-the-scenes piece showing dogs at the company headquarters with the Monongahela River out the window explains the "tragedy" in the choices of clothing styles now offered for canines at the mall. In one of the better quotes from the film: “I think American Beagle is going to be huge. I see Milan. I see Paris,” says one woman.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the video had more than 330,000 views on YouTube.com.
Mr. Holobinko expects this year’s effort to outperform last year’s because it had picked up so much interest even before American Eagle got a couple of well-dressed dogs onto NBC’s "Today Show" on Tuesday morning. Last year, American Eagle’s painted models went on the nationally televised morning news show just two days after launching its prank, and that drove a huge spike in online chatter.
Another twist this year was the decision to use any attention that the promotion might generate to help a good cause.
Shoppers were asked to sign up for a waiting list for the first look at the line, while getting a 20 percent discount on American Eagle purchases. One dollar per order was promised to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. American Eagle said Tuesday that it has donated $100,000 to the nonprofit.
The doggy clothing pieces that do end up being available for purchase will likely be closely tied to styles available for humans in the company’s stores, Mr. Holobinko said. That is both part of the fun and a way to actually tie the whole thing back to the retailer’s brand.
He expects prices to fall in the $25 to $30 range.
Teresa F. Lindeman: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 412-263-2018.
Teresa F. Lindeman: email@example.com or at 412-263-2018. First Published April 1, 2014 10:23 AM