EVEN the NYC trade magazines agree SORORITY GIRLS CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

Big news my friends!

Canvas 8, a NYC based marketing company, posted a trade article about the incredible trendsetting potential of Sorority girls.  No big deal but it’s read by corporate execs at Coca-Cola, Samsung, and Nike, just to name a few.

This article was written by the talented Andrea Graham Richeson. She is a consultant and consumer anthropologist
studying why people love what they love and founder of the youth culture consultancy, Youth Tribes.

Bascially we share the same marketing brain and I had the most fun interviewing with her.  She pulled some of my favorite topics from “Sorority girl can Change the World” and shared some below.

This article needs to be read by every sorority girl.  Then look yourself in the mirror and say,

“Dang it, I really can change the world!”

WHY SORORITY SISTERS ARE THE TRENDSETTERS

Their reputation as influencers and ability to mainstream trends on college campuses has helped
many clothing, make-up and technology brands go from virtual unknowns to status symbols
seemingly overnight. But what is it about sorority girls that can make an unsung item into the next
big thing?

Scope
For many American students, participating in Greek life – or at least attending the epic parties or
socials of fraternities and sororities – is an integral part of the college experience. And despite
receiving negative press in recent years, young people are still interested in joining these
organizations, especially women; according to the National Panhellenic Conference, the number of
new sorority members increased from roughly 80,000 to over 140,000 in the ten years to 2015, with
the number of chapters rising from 2,900 to nearly 3,200. [1]

 

While some of this increase may be due to the record number of women attending college, there is
also a growing perception among young Americans that going Greek has lifelong social and
economic benefits. While some houses may have a reputation for being party girls, it’s reported
that graduation rates are 20% higher among Greeks than non-Greeks. Their social capital can also
boost future earning potential, with 85% of Fortune 500 executives once belonging to a sorority or
fraternity. [2] And women who join sororities can boast their experiences in committee and
fundraising work through opportunities to assume leadership positions and give back to
communities. [3]
While contemporary youth culture may champion individual expression, sorority culture embraces
cohesive identities that reflect membership, social status and aspiration. Furthermore, members
report feeling empowered by their role as a well-connected individual who can make things happen.
Their reputation as popular influencers and their ability to mainstream trends on campus has
helped many clothing, make-up and tech brands go from virtual unknowns to status symbols
seemingly overnight. But how exactly does this happen? What is it about sorority girls that can
make an unsung item into the next big thing? And what can brands and organizations do to win the
support of these young women?

The power of sisterhood

In the 2015/16 academic year, there were more than 411,000 active undergraduate sorority
members in the US, and at colleges where Greek life has a major presence, up to 88% of female
students join these groups. [4][5] For many new arrivals, the appeal of sororities is hard to resist;
being part of an exclusive group of girls, who know all the right people and go to the cool parties,
seems like an ideal way to spend four years at school. However, while Greek life may be affiliated
with raucous fun, there are more compelling reasons for young women to pledge a house. In her
book Pledged, journalist Alexandra Robbins found that the two primary benefits claimed by sorority
members were a close network of friends and greater confidence. [6]

Conference, sororities were founded to provide female students with a community on male-
dominated campuses, and to find solidarity in the face of “restrictive social customs, unequal status

under the law and the underlying presumption that they were less able than men… Possessing an
unshakable belief in the power of women’s friendship, they came to understand that the one thing
they could not afford was to be at odds with each other.“ [7]

For those who are used to in-group status, or who seek in-group status after
being denied it earlier in their teens, Greek life promises not just a sense of
self, but a sense of belonging
Stephanie Talmadge, social media editor at Racket

 

Yet being a part of an exclusive group comes at a price. Depending on the sorority, recruitment
fees, membership dues, activity costs, and all the fun and fashionable extras can reach thousands

of dollars annually. [8] For many girls, however, the cost is worth the promise of a powerful network
of friends, writes Stephanie Talmadge for Racked;

“Rush at the beginning of your freshman year
and get a brand new label before you even step foot inside a classroom… For those who are used
to in-group status, or who seek in-group status after being denied it earlier in their teens, Greek life
promises not just a sense of self, but a sense of belonging.” [9]

While sororities may try to recruit a particular type of girl, the decision to pledge a certain house is
up to the individual. Linda Boynton Arthur, a researcher who has studied the dynamics of American
sororities, sees young women’s desire to be accepted by a particular organization as an example
of symbolic self-completion theory. “People who feel status anxiety may engage in self-
symbolization, resulting in the adoption of symbols used to bolster identity,” she writes. “Self-
symbolization is an idealized condition that occurs when a person’s status is legitimized by others
who accept these symbols as valid status markers.” [10] Seeking acceptance from people with
similar backgrounds and aspirations can be especially comforting for freshmen, says Laura
Argintar, senior women’s writer at Elite Daily; “A sorority house represents social stability and a
sense of identity. And the thousands of women who partake in rush reaffirm this placement in a
sorority as a coveted status.” [11]

One house, one look
Sorority girls are often envisioned as similarly clad in Hunter boots, Patagonia Snap-T Pullovers,
and leggings, typically holding a Starbucks coffee in one hand. The uniform look may seem
uncanny to outsiders, but the origins of and the importance placed on coordinated dress dates back
to the formation of the original organizations. Members were asked to dress alike for both formal
and informal occasions to strengthen group cohesiveness and establish a public-facing identity. [12]
While not all sororities today embrace a strict dress code or standard of beauty, there are situations
that do require a level of official decorum. Rush week, during which houses market themselves to
potential recruits, is taken very seriously, with some recruitment boards requiring a ‘dress check’
to ensure that members’ outfit choices comply with the look the committee has set for the week.

It’s important to note that, despite the stereotypical image of sorority girls, they are not a monolith.
Some chapters are more casual than others, and care little about designer goods and uniformity.
Regardless, most members often wear their Greek letter t-shirts, sometimes for events and other
times around campus. The reason is twofold – to promote their house and to signify to others that
are in a Greek community. This can be comforting for those who are looking for social connections
early in their college years. “Coming from out of state, I knew absolutely nobody,” says Jen Kline,
who joined Delta Delta Delta at the University of Central Florida. “I would be wearing my shirt, and
it made the biggest difference to me that when I was walking through campus, an older girl who I’ve
never seen before in my life would wave and say, ‘Hi’. You know? They didn’t know my name
then, but they would eventually.”

This group identity is particularly important for new recruits, explains Linda Arthur: “Enculturation
into a sorority began with adoption of the idealized images such as a sorority look. Pledges wanted
to at least look like full-fledged members and alleviated status insecurity by adopting the idealized
image as they embraced their roles.” She notes that while dressing the part is significant for
younger members, by the time they reach their final years, when they have diversified their social
networks, the desire to adhere is lessened. [14]
Sorority girls are well aware of their reputation for dressing alike, but few are concerned about what
others think outside of their group. “Many sorority composite photos have a Stepford Wives quality
to them, made worse during recruitment when they are literally all dressed the same,” write Terri
Pous and Rachel Wilkerson Miller for BuzzFeed. “Some of this is because people recruit new
members the way they find new friends; people tend to gravitate toward people who look like them,
for better or worse.” However, the pair point that sharing a closet with those whose opinion you
trust is even more convincing. “Once you start living with people, you tend to pick up on their style
(especially if you’re sharing clothes or doing each other’s make-up and hair) and develop a sort of
shared culture and look.” [15]

The influence of ‘It’ girls

“Sorority fashion is different from people who aren’t in sororities,” says lifestyle blogger Krystal
Faircloth. “It’s a lot more preppy.” [16] This has proven a major sales booster for brands such as

Lilly Pulitzer, Patagonia, Longchamp, and L.L. Bean, with the latter’s duck boots having seen year-
after-year of record sales as sorority sisters embraced them en masse. Pictures of girls in oversized

boyfriend sweaters, leggings and duck boots have spread across Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest,
becoming the de-facto winter boot for not only college co-eds but the rest of middle class America.
As a result, annual sales are expected to increase from under 100,000 ten years ago to 750,000 in
2017, prompting the Maine-based outfitter to open a second factory. [17]
Countless other companies have counted on the fierce loyalty and influential power of sorority
‘brandoms’. “Once one sorority picks up on a brand, it can spread from person to person like a
scandalous secret, infiltrating one house after the other until every sorority in the country knows
about it. Ta-da: It has become a national phenomenon – and a marketer’s dream,” writes
Bloomberg reporter Kim Bhasin. “When they pick up on a certain item… there’s a chance it will
become a staple within the group at a specific school. They tell their sisters at other schools. Then
everyone shows their moms, opening the brand up to a whole new demographic.” [18]

Once one sorority picks up on a brand, it can spread from person to person
like a scandalous secret, infiltrating one house after the other until every
sorority in the country knows about it
Kim Bhasin, reporter at Bloomberg

Sorority girls are also capable of making tremendous in-roads with their favorite causes.

Whether they’re fundraising for their local community or international humanitarian relief, members can
raise millions of dollars a year for charities.

[19] Katie Bulmer, author of Sorority Girls Can Change the World, believes that they succeed because they have passion, a willingness to cooperate, and
extensive social networks,

“Sorority women also have, on average, 50% more followers on social
media than their non-Greek peers,” she says. “With any given post, sorority women can influence
their social platform of thousands of people. Even the least friendly of the bunch is placed in an
environment to effortlessly meet tons of people and socialize with the most influential students on
campus.” [20]

Fashion brands and non-profits are not the only organizations that have been aided by Greek
student communities to spread their cred among youth. Tech companies like Facebook, Snapchat
and Tinder were all championed by Greek chapters during their early days. Whitney Wolfe and
Justin Mateen, the founders of Bumble and Tinder respectively, built their dating empires by
networking with California’s elite Greek set. Mateen kicked off Tinder in 2012 by hosting a party at
his parents’ house, inviting popular sorority and fraternity members from several colleges in the
area. The only thing they had to do to enter was download the app. “We penetrated the Greek
system,” Mateen says. “The most valuable lesson I learned is the power and influence that the
Greek system has on a student body.” [21]

Insights and opportunities
Sorority organizations play a substantial role in shaping the collegiate social experience. Although
other student groups certainly have clout and influence, the highly social lives and enthusiasm for
brands make Greek groups ideal partners in campus marketing efforts.

“Greek members are tight-
knit, share similar interests and prove to be significantly influenced by their Greek sisters and
brothers. Targeting influencers within these communities can give brands better-staying power and
more bang for their marketing budget’s buck,” writes Kofi Frimpong, an influencer marketing
expert. [22]

Not only are sororities willing to promote products they love, they’re also open to
hosting marketing events and can utilize their social connections to drive consumer-brand
relationships.

As so many sorority members rely on social media, brands may want to focus their attention on
digital influencers and the products and trends they support. Brands like Patagonia, J.Crew, L.L.
Bean, and Lululemon have all enjoyed the unwavering support of sorority girls, helping them reach
new markets both on campus and off.

Bulmer points to the story of Comfort Colors, which went
from a supplier of t-shirts for seaside gift shops to sorority must-have seemingly overnight. In 2015,
the brand was sold for $100 million, with Bulmer claiming that its success was

“not because theyhad a celebrity endorsement, not because of an ad campaign,
but because of these beautiful world-
changing girls decided they liked them.“ [23]

Brands looking to collaborate with these key influencers should consider sponsoring sorority
gatherings, says Delaney Swift, an event specialist in Columbus, Ohio. “Event sponsorship is a
great way for brands to collaborate with sorority organizations. Sororities are constantly hosting and
attending events and are looking for new and innovative partners to help co-plan their activities,”
she explains. “Another great avenue for collaboration is teaming up with a sorority or their chapter
to help one of their many philanthropic efforts.” [24] Tapping into the massive influence of Greek life
begins by harnessing the values that drive sorority organizations – sisterhood and a dedication to
making their community a better place. By aligning with these passions and principles, brands will
find a highly receptive student market and the fiercest of brand advocates.
Andrea Graham Richeson is a New York-based writer, consultant and consumer anthropologist
studying why people love what they love. She specializes in youth culture, gaming, fandoms, social
media, and new media. She is the founder of the youth culture consultancy, Youth Tribes.

Sources
1. ‘Despite scandals and bad ink, more and more students want to go Greek’, The Washington Post (January 2015)
2. ‘Examining the benefits of Greek Life’, USA Today (May 2012)
3. ‘Fraternities and sororities emphasize service and philanthropy’, Virginia Tech (July 2014)
4. ‘Advancing sorority together’, National Panhellenic Conference (2016)
5. ‘Most students in sororities’, US News & World Report (2016)
6. ‘Pledged’, Alexandra Robbins (2015)
7. ‘Adventure in friendship’, National Panhellenic Conference (2012)
8. ‘Buying into Greek life: is it worth it?’, Forbes (June 2014)
9. ‘The sisterhood of the exact same pants’, Racked (August 2017)
10. ‘Role salience, role embracement, and the symbolic self-completion of sorority pledges’, Sociological Inquiry (July
1997)
11. ‘The psychology behind why girls are so willing to join sororities’, Elite Daily (July 2014)
12. ‘Sororities: Sacrificing individuality for conformity’, The State Press (September 2016)
13. ‘It’s time to get ready :)’ , Sorority Girl 101 (February 2012)
14. ‘Dress and the social construction of gender in two sororities’, Clothing and Textiles Research Journal (March 1999)
15. ‘Here’s what sorority recruitment is actually like’, BuzzFeed (September 2017)
16. ‘How Lilly Pulitzer, an almost 60-year-old brand, became a social media darling’, Fortune (August 2016)
17. ‘LL Bean’s ‘duck boot’ gets a production boost’, CBS News (August 2017)
18. ‘Win the sorority girl, win the American wardrobe’, Bloomberg (September 2016)
19. ’13 fraternities and sororities taking philanthropy to the next level’, College Raptor (October 2017)
20. Interview with Katie Bulmer conducted by author
21. ‘How Tinder used Greek life for more than just hookups’, Fortune (August 2016)
22. ‘The best customers of the future are the Greek students of today’, HuffPost (June 2017)
23. ‘$100 million dollar power of influence’, Katie Bulmer (September 2017)
24. Interview with Delaney Swift conducted by author
Facebook Comments