It seems youth marketing has always been a hot topic in the advertising world. As young people move from the “discovery” phase of their tween years to the “experimental phase” of young adulthood, they shift from being motivators of their parents’ buying habits to influential consumers in their own right. But today that demographic is extremely important. Not only are today’s young people the first true digital natives and harbingers of how digital media will influence how we all interact with brands, but also, as baby boomers age and their $400 billion in annual consumption slows, retail, food, and entertainment companies are counting on millennials to fill the gap.

One marketer that has been particularly successful in tapping the youth market is Erin Yogasundram, the twenty-one year old founder of Shop Jeen, an online boutique that sells everything from dollar packs of Ouija gum to $530 filigree sunglasses. Yogasundram launched Shop Jeen in March of 2012, while she was a junior at George Washington University (GWU). She started out with posting cell phone photos of new products to Instagram and filling orders out of her dorm room. The Instagram feed and the business were such an immediate hit that Yogasundram walked away from the remainder of her full-ride scholarship at GWU and moved to New York City, where Shop Jeen now has three offices, nine employees, and half a million Instagram followers.

The Way I See It

  • I see a retail industry increasingly focused on millennial and youth marketing. As baby boomers age, their $400 billion in annual consumer spending will fade. The world will turn to millennials to make up the difference.
  • I see a demographic increasingly inclined to shop at multi-brand retailers and to do their shopping online.  According to recent research by Piper Jaffray, roughly eighty percent of teens shop online. Piper Jaffray’s research also confirms millennials’ growing reliance on peer recommendations when making buying decisions.
  • I see a social media market in continued flux as young people gravitate toward new platforms; according to the latest semi-annual Pew survey on teens and social media. While Facebook still has the largest number of teen and millennial users and those users have their largest networks on Facebook, the percentage of teens citing it as their most important social network has fallen by half, from forty-two percent in the fall of 2012 to twenty-three percent in the fall of 2013. In that same period, the percentage of teens citing Instagram as their most important network doubled.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Shop Jeen’s founder, Erin Yogasundram, to discuss her brand and how she uses social media to build a customer base.

Where did your initial vision for Shop Jeen come from? What niche or need did you want to fill?

I started the company, junior year, in my dorm room at The George Washington University. I had worked a few internships in the fashion industry in high school as well as during my winter and summer breaks in college.  I was working three part time jobs in retail, and one day I thought, I could do this myself.  I have always been an entrepreneur, and for example I sold autographs online when I was twelve and owned a shoelace selling business in high school. While working retail, I found that I had a keen eye for what would sell well.  I was always suggesting new brands for the stores to carry and had an invisible hand in the buying process.  I had about $2,000 saved from working retail and blew it all on a Celine bag (the bag was very rare, and had a wait list process at the time).  I have always been a workaholic and never a bookworm, so I quickly realized I could have used that money to start a new venture for myself.  I then sold the Celine bag for $3,000, yielding a $1,000 profit!  I decided to pool my money into wholesale purchase orders to fund my new venture.  Initially the site was to be a hub for the “best of Etsy.”  Etsy was gaining popularity, but it was very difficult to navigate and find the good stuff.  I used my keen eye, combined that with my researching skills, and I was able to find the cream of the crop on Etsy.  I negotiated wholesale terms with the sellers on there – most of which did not know what wholesale even meant when I approached them – and Shop Jeen was born.  I coded the original website from trial and error CSS writing.  I sold on campus at every event possible.  And I slowly started bringing on more well-known brands to gain traction and reputation in the industry.  Though we do carry some of the same brands as Bloomingdales, Urban Outfitters, Hot Topic, Bergdorf Goodman, Nasty Gal, Spencer’s Gifts, and ASOS, our curation is what makes us unique. So unique, in fact, that those retailers would not normally be mentioned in the same sentence.

What’s your curation process like? How do you decide what makes it on, and how have your decisions affected revenue?

Our Creative Director, Amelia Muqbel, and I work very closely to decide what products are sold, our marketing strategy, our social media voice, the look of our graphics, etc. Everything Shop Jeen stands for is a true representation of the two of us. Luckily, we somehow managed to find each other in this massive world. We share a very unique sense of style, thought-process, and outlook on the world, which is why we work so well together. I think our cohesive mindset comes across when you visit Shop Jeen.  We approach everything from a different angle than everyone else, and I’d say this has aided our success.  We quickly pull apart “competitors’” strategies and try to do the exact opposite.  It sounds crazy, but it’s been working! A lot of retailers are trying to mimic each other in order to come out on top, but if everyone is doing the same thing, how boring is that going to be for the consumer?

Continue Reading Youth Marketing: How the Founder & CEO of Shop Jeen Builds a Customer Base

The way we get our news is changing.  Every morning and throughout the day people around the world log on to Twitter to find out what is making headlines, new key developments on topics of interest, and what is “trending” – literally and figuratively.  And Twitter is not the only social media network being utilized to gather news and check for updates.  Facebook’s “Timeline” offers users the ability to share news articles within their network. Many social media users will check various social media sites more often than they may like to admit, looking for news or articles posted by “friends.”

The New York Times may have caused a stir when it introduced a paywall to access unlimited news content, but for many people, established news organizations are no longer that critical.  After all, they don’t have to look beyond their social networks to find the news they want.  Critically, with this shift in media consumption, advertising dollars are shifting too – the industry is going social.  Based on exponential increases in ad spend on social and digital networks, a recent BIA/Kelsey study predicts that social media ad spending will grow significantly over the next few years, from $4.7 billion last year, to $11 billion in 2017.


I see the shift to social continuing and more advertisers spending less on traditional media including digital news outlets, TV, and print, and spending more on social networks.

  • I see the shift to social continuing and more advertisers spending less on traditional media including digital news outlets, TV, and print, and spending more on social networks.
  • Continue Reading Ad Dollars Go Social

Men’s fashion has evolved over the years to incorporate more styles and fashion forward items.  Other men’s-only retailers offer customers the option of designing their own custom dress shirts, providing choices of size, pattern, collar type, buttons, cuff link style, monogram options, and other features.  The custom tailored concept is very popular among men, young and old, and it is now being introduced in online shopping to make it more convenient for men to custom design their shirts without even going to retailers.  While the industry often focuses on women’s designers and luxury fashion houses when examining marketing and advertising initiatives, the world of men’s fashion cannot be ignored.

The Way I See It

  • I see men’s fashion retailers owning the custom tailored space through sharp ads and marketing campaigns that highlight this service, with men in custom-made dress shirts with coordinating ties, sports coats, and accessories emphasizing a sharp, coordinated, classic look.
  • I see more men’s fashion retailers leading the way in digital and social media for marketing, taking advantage of the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms to reach target male demographics.
  • Menswear emphasizes quality and fit in marketing, and the importance of brand reputation and awareness is of utmost importance.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Alan Behar, CEO of Ike Behar, to discuss how the menswear industry has evolved and what advertising and marketing tactics most men’s fashion retailers find best.

Let’s talk about what sorts of advertising and marketing avenues the menswear industry typically finds the most success with.  How has that evolved over the years and where do you see it changing, if at all, in the next five to ten years?  Does it differ in any way from marketing women’s fashion brands?

Like most of the menswear industry, Ike Behar has traditionally focused on popular print media as our main avenue, and while it has been and continues to be quite successful, our tactics have certainly had to evolve.  The landscape is crowded, and for smaller niche brands it can be quite difficult to stand out, especially considering the degree to which the larger well-known brands have come to dominate these more traditional advertising venues.  So to that end, we’ve taken a move towards a more collective approach to our marketing strategy.  We’re using social media to help create and frame dialogue around our company.  We’re targeting key markets through direct retail, using such localized tactics to service our more traditional advertising, while appealing to our customers more directly.  For us, it’s all about trying to cut through the noise so we can have the chance to show our customers what a fine brand Ike Behar is.

Ike Behar’s brand is focused on custom tailored shirts and ties, the history of Ike Behar, his journey to the U.S., and the high-quality classic styles of his shirts.  How do men’s fashion retailers build brand awareness and brand reputation, and how important is it to drive return customers and sales?

Well, while historically our brand has been known for our exquisite shirts and ties, we have really grown far beyond that.  In recent years, we’ve brought that same reputation for quality and style to a huge array of products for both men and boys, including suits, sport coats, loungewear, and much more to complement those shirts and ties.  So, our history and Ike’s journey play an important role, mostly because they show that we produce a great quality and have done so consistently for over half a century.  However, we also find it important to remind our customers that we are very much a contemporary brand, and that a large part of our continued success can be attributed to the fact that our product line is diverse and constantly evolving not only to meet trends but to create them.  And one of the best ways to strengthen that reputation is simply by proving it to our customers with our line, because we really believe that someone can buy any one of our products and will be satisfied enough to try all that Ike has to offer.

Continue Reading Spring Fashion Series Part 2: Men’s Fashion