2016 Target Marketer of the Year: Windsor Hanger Western
“When it came to journalism and marketing opportunities,” she says, “most schools only had a school newspaper and a radio station. Very few had a women’s lifestyle and fashion magazine, despite a strong need and strong desire for one from the student body.
“When we took a step back and looked at the larger media landscape, we also saw a huge void for national media that specifically targeted college women. There were several teen-focused brands (Seventeen, TeenVogue, CosmoGirl) in business at the time and a plethora of women’s-focused brands (Vogue, Glamour, InStyle, Lucky, Allure) whose median reader was in her early 30s. What the media landscape lacked was something for the 18- to 24-year-old woman, the college student living on her own for the first time, establishing herself as a young adult and navigating the world of college and early career.
“We were members of the segment at the time and felt the need acutely.”
So, in addition to switching her college major to the history of science and writing her thesis “on the influence of medical imagery in advertisements in the 19th and 20th century,” Western switched her career goal to media and marketing.
To that end, Western, Lewis and Wang entered the Her Campus concept into Harvard College’s business plan competition, and won in March 2009. They launched the business in September 2009, a year before Western and Lewis graduated.
Wang took a leave of absence from the university to work as the co-founder, CPO and creative director, along with Western and Lewis, who now serves as the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Boston-based Her Campus Media.
Since then, Her Campus has expanded beyond being an online magazine site for Harvard undergraduates.
“Additionally,” Western continues, “we saw a huge lack of opportunities for women in college to prove themselves to future employers by gaining real-life work experience during their college careers. Internship opportunities at major magazines were few and far between, and usually unpaid and in New York City. Those who were lucky enough to secure one of these internships often found themselves fetching coffee and making copies — rarely doing the kind of truly meaningful work they were capable of. There was a prevailing sentiment (that still exists today, although we are working actively to eliminate it) that until you receive your college degree, you are not capable of doing anything of substance in the world of journalism, advertising and marketing. We turned this idea on its head by launching a media empire fueled entirely by the talents of these undergraduate women, providing a platform for self-expression and professional development that has turned into the top-read site for college women in the world.”
Her Campus Gets Bigger
In nominating Western, Kaplan touts her marketing prowess.
“[Her Campus Media’s] client list reads like a Who’s Who across multiple verticals, and includes Amtrak, H&M, Intel, L’oreal, Merck, Microsoft, MTV, P&G, Reebok and Target,” he says.
Kaplan points to the speakers at Her Conference 2016, a two-day event in New York, as proof of the prominence of the Her Campus Media brand. They include the editors-in-chief of Essence and Self magazines, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., an Olympian, a reality TV star, and a fashion designer.
The brand offers college women an email newsletter, the InfluenceHer Collective, the High School Ambassador Program, Her Conference, Her Conference: High School, College Fashion Week, Her Campus Shop, The Her Campus Guide to College Life and other products, programming, tools and events “to fulfill its mission of serving college women across every platform.”
Kaplan concludes: “These women are willing and able to reach for the sky, and they understand that the only way to get there is to pursue one’s goals until you succeed.”
A Big Year-and-a-Half on Her Campus
All of this work lead up to a dizzying year of events: Western speaks at the 2015 Girl Up Leadership Summit with the First Lady. She partners with Michelle Obama on female education and empowerment programs. She moves to Atlanta and telecommutes. Eleanor is born.
Meanwhile, Western continues to be the person who will answer the phone at the Boston office if she’s closest, then don a shower cap and suds up for a neck-up video shoot for The Body Shop.
“Windsor will do whatever it takes to get the job done,” Lewis says. “And sometimes, hilarity ensues.”
Western cites this quote from Roosevelt: “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.”
Perhaps as a result of this line of thinking, Western — who turns 28 on Oct. 11 — has already been named to BusinessWeek’s “25 Under 25 Best Young Entrepreneurs,” Inc. magazine’s “30 Under 30 Coolest Young Entrepreneurs,” Glamour magazine’s “20 Amazing Young Women” and The Boston Globe’s “25 Most Stylish Bostonians.”
That last honor may not logically follow from hard media and marketing work, but Her Campus Media did originate from a fashion and lifestyle magazine.
Emily Moore Shechtman — the senior director of business development at Her Campus Media — recalls this about the Girl Up Leadership Summit, hosted by the U.N. Foundation.
“Windsor and I were invited to the White House last fall to meet with Michelle Obama’s communications and policy teams,” Shechtman says.
She adds that a Her Campus contributor who was interning in D.C. made the initial connection between the brand and the First Lady. And that connection brings the brand’s mission full-circle — women helping women.
Western and Shechtman flew to D.C. the next day.
“We were given a private tour of the entire White House, taking selfies and pictures, rocking our best #girlpower poses along the way,” Shechtman says. “In true Her Campus form, we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to capture content. After the meeting, Windsor shared the stage with Michelle Obama at her ‘Let Girls Learn’ event. Windsor spearheaded the launch of three different programs to support the First Lady’s ‘Let Girls Learn’ female education and empowerment initiative, which was one of the most rewarding and well-received partnerships in Her Campus history.”
Adding Feminism to Marketing, Her Campus-Style
Western aligns the brand with partners she believes embody Her Campus Media’s feminist values. “It’s the right thing to do,” she says.
So brands like Tinder, the partner for the Her Campus Tour, need to do right by women.