Marketing junior Sophia Brahos is only 21, just a few years past the age when she read Seventeen magazine.
But even in that short span of time, Seventeen readers and their demands have changed, she says. “They are members of a completely different digital sphere,” Brahos explains. “While we subscribed and paid for our content, today’s preteens and teens are accustomed to reading any content anytime, anywhere, and for free.”
These new expectations — as well as competition from an endless world of digital content — pose challenges for Seventeen’s revenue model.
So last fall, at the invitation of the magazine’s publisher, Mendoza students in an Innovation and Design Thinking course, including Brahos, worked in teams to come up with recommendations to engage readers in new ways.
“Design thinking starts with a question, so the teams examined ‘How might we reimagine the Seventeen brand,’” says Management and Organization Associate Teaching Professor Wendy Angst, who teaches Innovation and Design Thinking.
From there, students conducted research, including interviewing dozens of domestic and international high school students, their parents and grandparents. “We found that modern teens value experiences — even over products — because they can share moments by posting on their social platforms,” Brahos says.
Her team ultimately developed the concept of a Seventeen flagship store — similar to the American Girl store, but with teen-centered product tables, tutorial space and, especially, opportunities for “postable” moments.
Donna Kalajian Lagani, senior vice president and publishing director for Seventeen and Cosmopolitan, chose Brahos’ team to present in New York in February 2017. Two members each from two runner-up teams were also invited to participate.
In addition to Lagani, students pitched their concepts to high-level executives including Michael Clinton, president, marketing and publishing director of Hearst magazines; Aya Kanai, executive fashion director at Cosmopolitan and Seventeen; and David Carey, president of Hearst Magazines.
“The students wove together three concepts and told a really strong story called ‘The Value of a Moment,’” Angst says. “They nailed their presentation. I couldn’t have been more impressed.”
Lagani, whose son is a Mendoza student, agrees. “I chose Mendoza knowing it is one of the highest-ranked undergraduate business schools in the country,” she says. “The students delivered a broad base of innovative ideas that could be scaled to a potentially large business.” Seventeen is taking steps to create a subscription box suggested by one team. Other ideas are being considered as well.
Brahos calls the experience the most valuable of her college career, especially because she has a strong interest in beauty and style — even operating the website All You Need Is Blush.
“And the opportunity to present in the executive boardroom on the 44th floor of Hearst Tower?” said Brahos. “That is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”