Pacsun President Brieane Olson: 2022 Top Marketer

Brieane Olson is taking Pacsun from the mall to the metaverse. 

Since being named company president in June 2021, Olson, a 15-year Pacsun employee, has driven multiple, forward-thinking partnerships, activations and launches. Together, these initiatives have positioned Pacsun as a digital innovator among fashion brands, high and low. 

“We’ve taken a very thoughtful and measured approach to meeting the consumer where they are, whether that’s on YouTube, on TikTok, in the metaverse and Roblox, or in stores, physically or through livestreams,” Olson said. 

She added, “The role of the marketer is to keep the consumer at the heart of all decision-making. And everything we do in the digital space needs to have purpose and authentically tie back to the brand.”

Catering to Pacsun’s core audience, which, at 17- to 24 years old, squarely falls into the Gen-Z demo, has also meant leading with inclusivity, she said. That’s included, for example, partnering with Black mega-influencers and facilitating a gender-free shopping experience on Pacsun.com. 

In July 2021, Pacsun named ASAP Rocky its first guest artistic director, granting the musician authority over designer collaborations, brand campaigns and activations in select L.A. and NYC stores. Thus far, he’s driven several Pacsun-exclusive product collaborations with Vans and Mercedes-Benz. And in September, he started fanfare around Vans and Russell Athletic collabs by performing unreleased songs at a VIP launch party in Pacsun’s Soho store. 

Other big-name partnerships the brand’s inked in the past year include a swimwear brand centered on body positivity with “Euphoria” actress Storm Reid. A project with “Grown-ish” actress Ryan Destiny is set to be announced this month. These partnerships follow a September 2021 collection of gender-neutral, sustainability-focused apparel with Willow Smith, dubbed Colour Range. The release was hyped with a performance by Smith at Pacsun’s Downtown L.A. store that was livestreamed. Meanwhile, Emma Chamberlain (27 million followers across Instagram and YouTube) has been a brand ambassador since 2021. 

“All of our partners have an authentic connection with their audience, and they’re breaking barriers, in terms of culture and technology,” she said, noting that ASAP Rocky was “one of the first to launch NFTs,” in April 2021. 

Pacsun has also jumped on the NFT bandwagon, launching its first in November 2021 and following up with a series of 300 NFTs called Pac Mall Rats, introduced in January. Each features design elements inspired by one of the brand’s 300 store locations. 

As for other digital activations, Pacsun launched on its social channels a digital AR experience featuring its Soho storefront in May. In February, it launched a VR experience at its L.A. flagship.

“In terms of marketing, there’s no longer a division between physical stores and digital efforts,” Olson said. “[Efforts are] 100% all-inclusive and immersive.” 

While connecting with customers where they are has driven Pacsun’s moves onto Roblox, for example, NFTs are an instance of “bringing customers along for the journey,” according to Olson. 

“Innovation and creativity have always been at the core of who we are,” she said. “And in the last two years, that’s meant [increasing our focus] on speed and agility.”

In March, after releasing digital fashions on Roblox in July 2021, Pacsun launched a dedicated Roblox experience, “Pacworld.” Centered on a virtual mall, players are challenged to make it as popular as possible by inviting friends and making tweaks to included stores and other components. A month prior, it launched “Pacsun The Game” via the Pacsun app. Meanwhile, in October, it announced it’s accepting cryptocurrency as payment through bitcoin payment processing company Bitpay. 

Moving forward, Olson plans to lean into opportunities around the company’s Pacsun Kids brand, launched in 2021, as well as its product partnership with Fear of God, which attracts customers ages 30-plus. Expanding its Pacsun’s customer base will also include growing its social community; Pacsun has 1.7 million TikTok followers on TikTok and recently made a dedicated hire to build its presence on Snapchat, where it has 170,000 subscribers.

Empowering the company’s customers and employees will be key to future success, she said. Pacsun drove $900 million in revenue in 2021. 

“I encourage our teams to explore and ‘make mistakes.’ That breeds intellectual curiosity and the desire to move the brand forward, rather than operating out of fear,” she said. “And we pride ourselves on pushing boundaries.” 

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