Clique Media Group is looking to expand its brand partnerships and target new consumer demographics with the help of its recently acquired fashion site, CollegeFashionista.
In an effort to experiment with new types of sponsorships, CollegeFashionista partnered with Sephora Collection, American Eagle Outfitters and LensCrafters on a series of live events for summer interns in New York City. These students were part of the website’s CF Clubhouse, a temporary pop-up in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood inspired by the recent influx of trendy co-working places (think: Soho House, The Wing and Neuehouse) and designed to foster networking and educational opportunities. The club — which was free, but open only to contributors of the site — served as a mutually beneficial venture for both CMG and participating brands by allowing both entities to more closely interact with a segment of the coveted Generation Z cohort.
“We want to make an impression on them that goes beyond a ‘like’ on social media and build an authentic connection and ongoing relationship,” said Deborah Yeh, svp of marketing and brand at Sephora. “Our partnership with CollegeFashionista is important to help us connect with these women who are starting to get serious about their future and are gearing up to transition from college to professional life.”
The move is a larger component of CMG’s rapid growth strategy over the past year, which in many ways has included a refined focus on Gen Z. In addition to acquiring CollegeFashionista in October 2016, the media group launched a wellness vertical this March called The Thirty — which is hosted on its beauty website, Byrdie — opening itself up to a wider swath of brand sponsors. Additionally CMG has worked to finesse its content strategy on platforms like Obsessee, its social-media centric publication, with an emphasis on peer-to-peer, user-generated content and boosting younger voices.
CollegeFashionista founder Amy Levin — who started the site as a personal blog in her dorm room in 2009 — said bringing brands on board to CF Clubhouse created a way for them to work directly with a captive audience of fashion interns. CollegeFashionista is comprised of upward of 2,000 college contributors (referred to as “Style Gurus” on the site), and many of them come to New York during summer break to do stints at fashion and beauty organizations.
“These are career-driven women and men who want to use the summer to advance their career, network and meet their peers in real life,” Levin said. “We wanted to partner with brands who understood that the primary focus and vision behind CF Clubhouse is education. We collaborated with each brand to create a unique learning experience for our community.”
The brands set up a number of different events for the club members during the three weeks it was open in July. Activations included a live podcast recording between Levin and Sephora Collection national makeup artist Helen Phillips, as well as a“wellness day” with yoga and meditation, followed by a panel discussion with members of the LensCrafters team. The space itself, which was in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, included a Sephora Collection beauty bar, as well as products and marketing from the the the other brands.
“We’re very careful about the brand partners we choose for all of our media properties, but this especially rings true for our Gen Z properties,” said Katherine Power, CEO and co-founder of CMG. “We’ve done some extensive proprietary research around Gen Z and their interests, what they spend their money on, their worries for the future — and we know this demographic demands authenticity when interacting with brands.”
Power said the events served as somewhat of an experimental pilot program for both CMG and CollegeFashionista to test reception and engagement. Given its high participation numbers, CMG is considering expanding the program to universities in California, where CMG is based, to test on-campus brand-sponsored events.
A posting board at CF Clubhouse
Inside CF Clubhouse pop-up
She said for brand partners, the experiential marketing helps with relationship building, which could hold longevity and create opportunities as the interns graduate and go on to become professionals in the fashion industry.
“The best brands are vigilant about truly understanding their consumer, and the best way to gain the important, game-changing insights is by actually reaching out to the consumer and interacting with him or her directly,” said Power. “Opening CF Clubhouse allowed us to better serve the Gen Z’ers in our community because we are getting to know them as friends, and not just as customers. That same principle goes for the brands partnering with us.”