Published on March 23, 2017, at 5:37 p.m.
by Erica Cooke.
It started off in 1982 as just a quilted paisley pattern, folded and tucked into different shapes that would eventually transform into a bag. More than 30 years later, that quilted carryall has turned into an icon and is empowering girls across the nation.
In the past, Vera Bradley has been known for its vibrant fabric duffle bags that middle school girls used for sleepovers, or for its iconic Java Blue totes that older women used when they go grocery shopping. It was then that Vera Bradley realized it was missing a certain audience. So, in 2016, Vera Bradley decided to give itself a makeover and rebrand, starting with its digital media campaign, #ItsGoodToBeAGirl.
The company determined if it was going to tap into its new audience and promote its new digital media campaign, it needed to go straight to the source: college students.
Vera Bradley has been seeking campus brand ambassadors on different college campuses across the nation for the past year. One of them is Jessica Sokoloff, a junior at The University of Alabama.
“Campus ambassadors post on their social media constantly,” Sokoloff said. “I have a large amount of followers. I’m constantly posting about my giveaways, and people are interested. We get to help tell a story about Vera Bradley. We get to use Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to tell the story about the rebrand and why it’s good to be a girl in 2017.”
With an Instagram following of almost 3,000 people, Sokoloff was hand-selected by Vera Bradley to become the first UA campus ambassador.
Sokoloff believes that campus ambassadors were the best way to share the rebrand of Vera Bradley with young women.
“We appeal more to millennials,” she said. “Our age group went through the Vera Bradley phase when we were in middle school, and when we got to high school, it kind of dropped out. Vera Bradley wants everybody to be interested and find a use for [its products], so Vera is trying to rebrand itself to affect our generation.”
However, being a campus ambassador is much more than having free giveaways. It is more about telling a story and getting women excited to embrace themselves. Sokoloff believes the #ItsGoodToBeAGirl campaign goes beyond the social media realm. It is a message all women should embrace.
“I think it’s really self-empowering,” Sokoloff said. “It’s really cool that Vera decided to do that because I feel like not a lot of other companies have campaigns just like that. It’s just like Vera encourages girls to be themselves and use Vera products in the way that they want to. There’s not a norm set for it.”
Jessica Sokoloff constantly works alongside her “branding better half,” Abbey Hagan, who was later brought on by Vera Bradley to help the social media storytelling of its rebrand.
“I think it’s hard,” Hagan said. “A lot of people weren’t aware that Vera Bradley went through a rebrand, but we help get the name out there. I mean, I didn’t know. My roommates didn’t know. The target audience was too separate. It was the little kids carrying duffels and the older demographic that wanted a gym bag or a cute diaper bag. I don’t think there was a middle ground between teens and 20-year-olds because they catered to two different markets before.”
Hagan has used her own personal talents to help advance her Vera Bradley ambassador career. She posts on her public fashion blog and YouTube channel to expand Vera Bradley’s reach from certain college campuses to nationwide.
“When Vera Bradley was the ‘it thing’ to have, social media wasn’t around,” Hagan said. “So now I think that they’re using the social media aspect around it, it is reaching the generation that it wants to reach. As millennials, we are always on our phones and doing certain things like that, so I feel like with the social media posts and Snapchat takeovers and Facebook giveaways, it’s reaching the audience it wasn’t reaching in previous years.”
Much like Sokoloff when it comes to the #ItsGoodToBeAGirl campaign, Hagan thinks it is empowering. She described it to be freeing for women because it encourages them to be who they are and do what they want to do.
“I think in this generation, women are doing things that weren’t, I guess, ‘accepted’ a long time ago,” Hagan said. “Now you have a lot more freedom to do what you want to do and say what you want to. It’s just good to be a girl in 2017.”
Both Sokoloff and Hagan agree that the best part of their job is being able to make someone’s day. They appreciate the opportunity they have to use social media and spread the word, to use their influence and tell the story of Vera Bradley and to ultimately show why it’s good to be a girl.
“What Vera Bradley stands for is empowering women,” Sokoloff said, “and that’s so cool to work with a company whose main goal is to tell women that they can be whoever they want.”