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HerCampus Empowers Collegiates with Unique Media Strategy

Her Campus (HC) is the new #1 media brand and marketing agency for the empowered college woman, reaching over 35 million users monthly across the Her Campus Media network.

While at Harvard, HC was a winner in the college’s i3 Innovation Challenge. They went on to be named a Gold Winner and Best All-Around Team at MassChallenge, was named Top Small Business of the Year by the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and was named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of The Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America. Other press and awards include Inc. Magazine’s 30 Under 30, Businessweek’s 25 Under 25, Forbes Top 100 Websites for Women, Forbes 10 Best Websites for Millennial Women, and more.

Founded by Collegiettes, for Collegiettes

Co-founders Stephanie Kaplan Lewis, Windsor Hanger Western, and Annie Hang met as undergraduates at Harvard while running a student-run fashion and lifestyle magazine called Freeze. In order to publish content more frequently and to cut down on publishing costs, they decided to take the annual print publication online. When they did so, their content grew in popularity not just among students at Harvard, but also nationwide.

Founders Windsor, Annie, and Stephanie from left to right

As they continued to push out relatable and targeted content such as “7 Questions You Should Ask Before Ending a Relationship,” and “How to Stop Spending All Your Money Without Cutting Back on Fun,” it became increasingly apparent that they were filling a gap in the millennial media space. Kaplan Lewis explains, “Women at other schools wished for a similar publication they could read and write for, since most colleges only had the school newspaper as a writing outlet. We looked at the media landscape and realized there wasn’t really any media out there targeted at college women.”

This key insight inspired the trio to position HC as the new media brand that would target just college women – both online and on campuses. They saw that within this incredibly overcrowded space, there was a huge opportunity that other companies just weren’t seeing. The on-the-ground concept was a unique approach to pursue in order to reach college women, who represent a $270+ billion annual market and are a coveted demographic for advertisers across virtually every category.

“We recognized that college women were looking for content that catered to them both at the national and local level, as well as a platform where they could get clips and experience in magazine journalism while still in school,” Kaplan Lewis says. They rolled out HC on a national scale as an online magazine written by college women, for college women, with both national and local content.

Profitable Since Day 1

Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of HC’s story is that after being granted a small loan of $500 to file as an LLC, they have not had to raise any funding. They’ve been profitable since virtually day 1.

In 2009, they had the backing of some big-name advertisers and had established roughly 30 chapters across the nation. Today, they have over 35 million monthly users and over 360 campus chapters worldwide. Their full-service college marketing agency connects brands with college women across digital, influencer, experiential, on-campus, and market research platforms. This multi-platform structure enables the company to deliver innovative marketing programs for marketers looking to reach this demographic. According to Kaplan Lewis, this means “everything from native content, to sampling programs, to large-scale events we’ve created like our annual College Fashion Week and Her Conference, to influencer activations, and more.” Their comprehensive reach enables HC to run award-winning college marketing programs for the likes of IKEA, L’Oréal, H&M and many other leading brands.

Kaplan Lewis suggests that their unique approach of marrying digital reach with on-the-ground presence sets them up to operate in a space in which they have no direct competitors. “Other college marketing agencies compete with us for business, but they are just marketing firms – they do not have the editorial and on-campus presence that we have which is what enables us to run such authentic and integrated programs for our clients. There is no other brand, media company, or marketing agency that offers the full 360-degree lifestyle experience to users and 360-degree suite of capabilities to marketers as we do.”

A Decade is in the Books – What’s Next?

It’s no secret that the millennial generation can be incredibly fickle. As a result, their tastes, media consumption, and consumer behavior are changing constantly. It seems, though, that HC has done a great job of staying nimble and giving the bigger, older, and more established players in the space a run for their money.

“We look forward to continuing to build our brand in a way that serves college women first and foremost, and meets them on all the platforms and at all the touch points where they are engaging,” Kaplan Lewis says. “What will stay constant is our laser focus on this demography and commitment to serving this woman across every aspect of her life – while creating opportunities for marketers to smartly integrate themselves.”

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