Influencer Q&A with Ryan Holiday: "American Apparel sold $50K in an hour on Twitter"

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Raw, provocative, visual: These are a few of the words that spring to mind about the American Apparel brand. But the Los Angeles-based company is much more than just its edgy aesthetic. We asked the company’s Director of Marketing Ryan Holiday to share some of the digital business savvy behind their famously risque ads.

@TwitterAds: How does Twitter fit in with your larger marketing strategy?

@ryanholiday: American Apparel is a manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer. That means we’re a real-time company. We’re making new products right now that will be out next week. We don’t do big, seasonal campaigns the way that many fashion companies do. We’re not waiting to concentrate everything into one big media moment. Twitter functions really well with our manufacturing system because it is always on like we are, making new things.

@TwitterAds: What’s the most unique thing that Twitter offers your business?

@ryanholiday: The best thing about Twitter is that it’s a short, immediate way to communicate with and reward our fans. With an email, you’ve got to spend time getting it coded, designed and tested. But on Twitter, we can get a message out, do a short flash sale or share a promo code instantly. That immediacy and ability to call people to action for brief moments in time is totally unique.


You can’t really do an hour sale via email because if people check their email six hours later, they’re going to be upset that they can’t use the offer. Whereas with Twitter, you can put up a promotion between 12 pm to 1 pm and the people who see it feel really special. And the people who didn’t see it, don’t necessarily know they didn’t see it and don’t feel like they missed out.

@TwitterAds: How successful have your sales on Twitter been?

@ryanholiday: We’ve made as much as $50,000 in one flash sale on Twitter. You can get a sense immediately of what people respond to. Then you can test, iterate and improve so you create flash promos that really move the needle in a tight window of time.

Like any company, each team at American Apparel has sales goals and benchmarks. If they are behind, now they know they can leverage Twitter. They can come to our team and ask if they can do a quick promotion or offer free shipping for the afternoon. The goal is always to create an experience that gets people excited and benefits our fans.

But at the end of the day, we’re a business with employees to support and investors to keep happy. The numbers matter. Twitter helps us move the numbers in a positive way while also helping us build an asset that keeps driving numbers over time. Every time we offer a sale on Twitter that makes money, it also means we satisfied fans who are more likely to check our messages in future.

@TwitterAds: Any new tests on Twitter lately?

@ryanholiday: We’ve loved experimenting with Twitter Cards. We’re coming up with one or two of these Twitter lead generation campaigns a week. That was a big part of our Halloween strategy.

October is one of our biggest months of the year because people use our basics to create costumes. This year, we incorporated a hashtag #AAHalloween across all content, all our store windows and all our ads for the month of October to extend the conversation across online and offline.

We also used Lead Generation Cards to get new customers to sign up and receive more of our content via email. One campaign was a “trick and treat” promo where people could enter to win a $25 gift card by submitting an email.


Another one asked people to pick one of the costume ideas we shared and enter to win that whole costume. That one did really well, with over a hundred leads and an engagement rate of 2%.


Since we’re a manufacturer, we often have large quantities of pieces on hand that we’re trying to move or new pieces that we want to get people excited about. So we did another Halloween campaign that gave away extra product.


With the Lead Generation Card, we’ve been able to drive engagement rates that are higher than retail benchmarks and generate hundreds of leads during our busiest time of the year. After analyzing these Twitter leads, we’ve found that 50% are new emails that didn’t exist in our database. Plus, these Twitter leads have an average order value of $90, which is about 15% higher than our normal average order value.

@TwitterAds: Visuals are central to your brand personality. How does that translate into the content you create for Twitter?

@RyanHoliday: Twitter poses an interesting challenge for us because we sometimes have trouble expressing ourselves in 140 characters. Our brand personality is much more image-based than text-based. I actually think Twitter Cards have given us the opportunity to be more of who we are on Twitter as a brand.

We see Twitter Cards as an opportunity to convert emails but also as a branding opportunity. After all, the dimensions of a Twitter Card allow us to highlight our product in a highly visual way. We have our designers get creative and think of it as advertising space that not only drives an action but creates a compelling impression.

Vine has also been very interesting to us because it poses an artistic challenge. It makes us question how we can give people a peek behind the curtain without violating sacred brand principles. It’s definitely something we’ll be investing in more in the future and right now it’s something that’s got us thinking. It excites us because it’s pushing our creative process.

@TwitterAds: Any final Twitter tips?

@RyanHoliday: Ultimately, there are so many ways to do Twitter. But my advice is always to be who you are. You can embrace the benefits of the medium but you need your strategy to be aligned with what you do elsewhere.

You don’t have to pretend to be the way everyone else is. Being controversial doesn’t work for everyone. Being overly conversational may not either. Never undermine the brand you’ve already built to fit a new medium.