Founded in 1986, American Girl has come a long way toward digital innovation from its direct-mail past. The Mattel-owned brand is frequently the subject of pop culture memes and “Saturday Night Live” parodies, and recent collaborations with the likes of cult favorite Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream are furthering the brand’s appeal with both young consumers and their millennial parents.
Why American Girl is leaning into ’90s nostalgia and brand collabs such as Jeni’s
“We were actually having this amazing convergence of generations of the girls who grew up with the brand originally at its inception were now becoming parents and caregivers themselves and it really sparked an interest with moms to start to share that experience with their daughters,” said Jamie Cygielman, president of American Girl, speaking on a recent episode of the Marketer’s Brief podcast. “That’s been a really new and interesting phenomenon and has helped American Girl drive so much new and exciting earned media and editorial.”
The brand’s recent ’90s-era twin dolls, called Isabel and Nicki, have also helped appeal to both generations.
Cygielman noted how a recent meme “We need an American Girl doll who” that went viral helped drive this renewed interest in the brand.
“Why this meme became so popular is that there’s nothing that can’t be thrown at an American Girl and there’s nothing she can’t do,” said Cygielman.
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To continue the momentum, the brand works with mom influencers on Instagram and TikTok. It also has been pursuing brand partnerships, such as a Pizza Hut collaboration on products for a ’90s-era doll. American Girl also got a lot of buzz from its recent deal with Jeni’s, a partnership nearly three years in the making that included Jeni’s clothing for dolls and a miniature ice cream truck with tiny pints as well as seating for dolls inside Jeni’s ice cream shops.
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“It helps us deepen and retain our core customer, these collaborations, but it also helps us acquire new customers through the partner's existing fan base,” said Cygielman, noting another collaboration with Harry Potter.
On the podcast, she also discusses the brand’s virtual storefront and how it is experimenting with AI.