Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Cosmopolitan Dream Come True

Fashion, fame, and a future: Sally Stearns tells us how she segued her love of Cosmopolitan into becoming a brand representative for the magazine and made her dreams her reality. ♦ 

It’s hard to miss Cosmopolitan magazine when walking past a newsstand or bookstore. Its bright colors, bold words, and glamorous cover celebrities make it irresistible to the average college-aged female. It tempts you and draws you in. It hooks you.
      I've had an obsession with Cosmo for as long as I can remember. As soon as I was “old enough” to read it (according to my mother, who still doesn't think she is old enough to read it), nothing could stop me from poring over the glossy pages for hours. Literally hours. I actually timed myself once and found that it takes me approximately 3.5 hours to read each issue. By age sixteen, I had the monthly release date memorized, making a special trip to the bookstore every fourth of the month to make my exciting purchase. On top of my loyal newsstand purchases, I also bought myself a subscription that I haven’t failed to renew each year. Yes, I've been made fun of a time or two for the massive piles of magazines I refuse to throw away, which take up more space in my room than my actual bed, but I can’t seem to discard them. In fact, I think it would cause me actual physical pain to do so.
       You can imagine, then, how completely and utterly thrilled I was when I found out I was chosen to be a Cosmopolitan Brand Representative.
     Cosmopolitan is the number one magazine on college campuses, with more readers than Glamour, Lucky, and Vogue combined. It has sixty-one international editions around the world, and reaches 20 million print readers alone. Given the generally dismal state of print magazines these days, how does Cosmo manage to get these amazing numbers? How do they still reach such a wide audience in what some claim is a dying field? 
       The answer is simple: through engaging content and shrewd marketing.
     “FunFearlessFemale” is the mantra that Cosmopolitan has adopted, including it in both their logo and website. Clearly stating their intended audience, this mantra is catchy and inspiring, leaving no room for questions about who the magazine caters to. It encourages its readers to be fun, fearless, female, and overall confident.
       In the fall of 2013, Cosmopolitan teamed up with marketing agency ThirdChannel to create a brand representative program for college students. College girls at schools around the nation applied to become a representative, and 250 were chosen to represent the brand. No other magazine had tried a program like this, which sets it apart from all other publications in competition and greatly improves sales. I applied on behalf of Miami University of Ohio and was ecstatic when I received an email with the official Cosmopolitan header saying that that I was selected. The primary job of each representative is to sell print subscriptions, and there are prizes and awards, including the possibility of landing a summer internship at Cosmopolitan as well as a trip to NYC for an entire day with the editor-in-chief Joanna Coles. These prizes alone are certainly the greatest incentives a mega-fan like myself could ever ask for, and they were all I needed to throw all of myself into the program.
     I was given permission to use the Cosmopolitan logo and began by making posters like crazy, thinking of different ways to market to different groups of people. I then individually reached out to my friends and family, and was amazed at all of the feedback I received. I made a huge post on my sorority Facebook wall describing my position and asking for support, and just about every single on of the 182 members commented they would spread the word. I quickly found that through my position, college girls felt personally reached out to by Cosmopolitan, which translated into them wanting to subscribe to the print magazine. No other magazine has tried a program like this, which sets it apart from all other publications in competition and greatly improves sales.
      One of my favorite parts of the program came in the first few weeks, when we were given the assignment to write a question to the editor-in-chief, Joanna Coles. I thought deeply about my question, wanting it to be a good one in case it ever passed through her. Days after submitting it, we were surprised on our Facebook group wall to see that Joanna Coles herself had made a video specifically for all of us, just to answer our questions. I clicked on the video and was delighted about halfway through to hear her address and answer my question. She was talking to me.
      Perhaps my most effective marketing tactic was when I decided to personalize my position as much as I possible could. I took a photo from me in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome and wrote the caption “Help me grant my wish by subscribing to Cosmopolitan” and posted it on Facebook. Minutes later, the photo had been shared almost twenty times and commented on by people I didn't even know, and it just grew from there.
    The program holds weekly contests to give the agents incentive to sell subscriptions. One week in particular, their top-selling agent won a plane ticket and two tickets to see Miley Cyrus in New York. This happened to be the same week of my Trevi Fountain photo, so I pulled ahead of the program with eleven sales in one week, which put me on the leader board for winning the tickets. I didn't win tickets in the end, but I was proud of myself for even being close and impressed at the reach my idea had.
     I also earned the distinction of being named “Cosmopolitan Woman of the Week,” where I was recognized for my efforts and sent an extra gift to thank me for my work. I was delighted to open my Facebook and see my picture underneath that title, accompanied by a blurb about my success in the program. At one point during the program, I was ranked as highly as #17 out of 250 agents. Being in the top twenty was my own personal goal, and I wish I could've frozen that moment when I found out I made it forever. Not only did I get a recommendation letter and resume write up from Cosmopolitan, but I had officially made it onto Cosmo's radar, one step closer to my dream of working there one day. I can certainly guarantee they haven’t seen the last of me.
     Cosmopolitan is one of the few print magazines still thriving in today’s troubled print media, and it's my belief that it always will. Women will never stop wanting a “bible” to flip through on a night in, at the beach, or on an airplane. Careers, sex, and relationships will always be hot topics, just as every woman will always deserve to feel like a fun, fearless female. That's how I felt I every day I represented them.
  • About the Author
    Sally Stearns is a fashion writer and editor who is currently Editor-in-Chief of UP Magazine, Miami University's campus fashion magazine. She enjoys bookstores, Taylor Swift, and can frequently be found devouring the latest issue of Vogue or Cosmopolitan. She would like to pursue a career in magazine journalism and hopes to move to New York City.

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