Justice Taps Mackenzie Ziegler To Sell Tweens On Teamwork

Justice, the clothing chain for tween girls, is hoping to buck a grim retail picture with a back-to-school ad campaign featuring Mackenzie Ziegler, the 13-year-old “Dance Mom” sensation.

With a song and video made just for Justice, “Teamwork” is the brand’s biggest fall campaign yet, breaking on its YouTube channel. Plans call for it to run on social channels but not on TV. “TV is just not something our audience does anymore,” says Lece Lohr, president of the kids’ segment of Ascena Retail, which also owns brands like Ann Taylor, Loft and Lane Bryant. “It’s not where they get their content. They spend a tremendous amount of time on YouTube, and for them, it’s all about streaming.”



Justice, based in New Albany, Ohio, has 1,000 stores around the world.

In addition to the new campaign, which focuses on working together against bullying, the chain is also introducing a dance-themed activewear line in partnership with the young star.

Lohr tells Marketing Daily that the new effort is the logical follow-up to last year’s “Live Justice” campaign, “which encouraged girls to live active, live together, live connected, and live creative. By partnering with such an important influencer, we want to take that to a whole new level,” she says. “Our mission has always been to enhance the self esteem of a tween girl, to promote positivity, and this idea of girl power is more important than ever.”

Ziegler has some 20 million social-media followers, and her videos have been viewed 200 million times.

Like all of Justice’s marketing, Lohr says it’s meant to appeal to the brand’s dual audience: Tween girls and the moms who trail behind them, wallet in hand. “And while younger girls, those who are 7, 8 and 9, tend to have more influence on their moms, and nag and nag and nag for clothing they want, moms of older tweens push back more. They become gatekeepers, and are trying hard to keep those girls young and innocent.”

She says timing advertising and new merchandise introductions is dramatically different than it was even several years ago. “The days of people coming in and buying everything at once for back-to-school just doesn’t happen anymore,” she says. While an early wave might include buying basics like backpacks and lunch boxes, “our customer comes back the week before school starts to buy more clothes. And then she comes back after school starts, to buy the things she’s seen other girls wearing.” To win the season, “we have to have the hottest, freshest merchandise every time she comes in the store.”

Winning isn't easy. Like many other mall-based retail brands, Justice is under pressure, reporting a 6% decline in same-store sales in its most recent quarterly results, with sales falling to $215.6 million. (Same-store sales fell 8% across Ascena’s entire portfolio.) And last month, the Mahwah, N.J.-based Ascena said it would close hundreds of stores, reducing its store count by some 25%.

Real-estate experts Cushman & Wakefield, which says retail visits to malls fell 50% between 2010 and 2013, predict retailers will shut down up to 9,000 stores this year, a jump of 125% from last year.

Separately, after reports that a cosmetic for tweens may contain traces of asbestos fiber, the retailer pulled the JustShine Shimmer Powder. "Justice is committed to the safety and integrity of our products,” it says in a statement, reported by news outlets. "We cannot speculate regarding the matter until we have more information. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, we have stopped the sale of this product while we investigate."

Editor's note: The final paragraph was added post-publication to bring an important update to our readers.

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