Her Campus Proves That Knowing Your Audience Is True Model Behavior

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The young-adult marketing firm and media company hosts its third College Fashion Week to attract budding buyers.

Fashion Week may be over for New York and Milan trendsetters, but college marketing firm and media company Her Campus Media is bringing collegiates to the catwalk with its College Fashion Week tour this October. And the brand is giving its millennial audience the front-row treatment.

The third annual young-adult fashion tour kicks off October 4 in Boston and ends October 25 in San Francisco—making stops in New York and Chicago along the way. The event primarily targets college women—specifically budding fashion bloggers who may cover the tour.

“In the long run, these types of marketing events...can really create brand loyalty for attendees,” says Windsor Hanger Western, cofounder, publisher, and president of Her Campus. “We want them to remember their college highlights and associate the highlights of each school year with Her Campus and with our partners.”

There are more than 20 million students enrolled in higher education institutes in the U.S., according to the May 2014 “College Student Buying Behavior” survey by SheerID, and this market has a spending power of $417 billion. College Fashion Week enables Her Campus to establish itself as a top college media company among this segment and give sponsors the opportunity to get their products in front of a niche audience.

*“Because we built this audience [of college women], it's a demographic that's typically very difficult to reach from a marketing standpoint,” Hanger Western says.

But if Her Campus wants to get its brand and partners in front of “collegiettes,” it needs to resonate with them first. One way the marketing and media company does this is by understanding its audience's pain points. For instance, money is a major concern for students, despite their purchasing power, Hanger Western says. Students aren't willing to pay for content, she adds, so all of the articles in Her Campus' online magazine can be accessed for free.

The company applies this same thrifty mind-set to its fashion tour. Instead of having students pay for tickets to College Fashion Week, Her Campus has them apply. In addition to asking students for basic information—such as name, age, gender, and school—Her Campus solicits social media followings and whether applicants are Her Campus chapter members. Hanger Western says that this technique ensures that only the most enthusiastic and influential fashionistas attend.

Publishing user-generated content is another way Her Campus appeases its audience. Aside from its sponsored content, all of Her Campus's online magazine content is student written and produced, Hanger Western says. The company even sends college journalists to College Fashion Week to provide exclusive content for Her Campus readers.

“Peer reviews and word of mouth are some of the most effective [forms of] marketing out there,” Hanger Western says.

However, assuring that the brand resonates with collegiates is only half the battle; ensuring that College Fashion Week's sponsors relate to its audience also is vital. For instance, TRESemmé is the official hair care sponsor for the tour. In addition to doing the models' hair for the runway shows backstage, TRESemmé is hosting a dry styling bar in the front of the house to give attendees the opportunity to have their “model moment,” Hanger Western says. The hair care company is also sponsoring a LinkedIn photo booth, which will allow attendees to snag a headshot for their professional social network profile, and giving away product samples. TRESemmé's positioning as the “professional, affordable” hair care brand aligned with the ideals of Her Campus target audience.

“We wouldn't go after a hair care brand that has $20 or $30 shampoos,” Hanger Western says. “That's something where it's not going to be the most natural fit; it's not the same audience; it's not the same values; and it's not the same focus.” 

However, Hanger Western says that Her Campus isn't the only one benefitting from this partnership. TRESemmé is the official hair care sponsor for New York Fashion Week, she says, and sponsoring College Fashion Week allows them to get in front of the next generation of fashion and beauty enthusiasts. So consequently, when selecting a brand partner, it's important for marketers to collaborate with companies that share the same principles and goals to create an organic experience, Hanger Western says.

“When it comes to partnering with an organization...it's really important that the platform that you're using [and] the media partner that you're using have similar values and have a similar audience,” she explains.

When it comes to promoting the event, Her Campus knows that there's no one-size-fits-all channel. As a result, the brand is building buzz by telling people about College Fashion Week through multiple channels. For instance, Her Campus is promoting the event through its online magazine, College Fashion Week website, “Study Break” email newsletter, college-based brand ambassadors, and of course social. Once the event ends, Her Campus will send out surveys to receive feedback about the tour.

And if there's one piece of advice Hanger Western could offer to College Fashion Week's young marketing attendees, it would be to learn how to market themselves.

“It's so important to just remember that everyone you talk to is important,” she says. “Everyone that you talk to deserves to be treated with respect.”

*This quote was edited at 11:15 a.m. on September 24 to provide clarity.

DMNotes is DMN's around-the-clock blog. Yes, a blog in 2016.

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