By  on August 23, 2013

With the goal of reaching more than 1.1 million female students, Rent the Runway is partnering with L’Oréal Paris on a large-scale marketing program.

The initiative, which kicks off this fall on over 200 college campuses across the country, will utilize Rent the Runway’s 1,000 collegiate brand ambassadors to market both companies through social media and interactive events. Plans call for L’Oréal to also conduct “campus-wide” sampling through on-campus events.

“We’re in an age where e-mail marketing is becoming less effective, when people fast forward through TV commercials, so if you can get to women through a weekly Greek meeting or a trunk show on campus, you start conversation. It’s a very natural form of marketing,” said Jenny Fleiss, co-founder of Rent the Runway. “Women in college are a natural fit for Rent the Runway because they have tons of different events with the same people and constantly want to turn over their wardrobe.”

Fleiss said that also because of the increasing role of social media, college-age girls are drawn to newness, both in fashion and beauty. “We’ve heard that Facebook kills outfits,” she said. “You can’t even get away [with wearing the same one twice] if you are with a different group of girls, because of social media.” 

For L’Oréal, the opportunity to partner with Rent the Runway — whose database of members has swelled to 4 million since its conception in 2009 — offers a chance to tap into an important demographic for the business. According to Fleiss, her company’s On Campus program, which launched in 2009, has involved more than 3,500 students and helped drive double-digit growth for the brand each year. This is the first time the program will have a beauty component.

“We are always looking for innovative ways to reach the illusive millennial market and we felt Rent the Runway’s on-campus program was innovative but very genuine way,” said Kristen Comings, vice president for media, digital, content and consumer promotions at L’Oréal Paris. “We are not only entering a relationship with Rent the Runway, but also with each one of these brand ambassadors, knowing how they are seen as thought leaders on their campuses. The college market isn’t going anywhere and we know this is the future of our business.”

Utilizing the on-campus brand ambassadors, Rent the Runway and L’Oréal will facilitate events where students can pick out dresses, hair color and various cosmetics offerings for a “head-to-toe look.”

“For this demographic we think partnering with a brand she is already engaging with, it’s a great way to have more of a personal dialogue with her,” said Comings, adding that product sampling will be a major push, as will the hair care category. “One thing that was very compelling for us was hair color,” she said. “This girl is very into DIY and we want to begin to introduce her to hair color in that home environment.”

According to Fleiss, the move into beauty, which follows a recent partnership with Wella hair care, is meant to offer consumers more of a complete experience.

“Beauty is something we’ve been exploring a little bit, we sell some select beauty products on our site,” said Fleiss. “What we are hoping to do with L’Oréal is develop the educational component of how you pair beauty with fashion.”

Another benefit of targeting college-age shoppers for both L’Oréal and Rent the Runway is the chance to recruit them into their respective businesses for potential internships. 

 “We are offering internship opportunities and recruitment advice for all the women who partake in this program. They will get the chance to apply for summer internships both at Rent the Runway and L’Oréal,” said Fleiss. “There is a résumé building component to the program.” 

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