By Molly Novotney
Walking around the University of Illinois campus, it’s harder to find students not involved in Greek Life than it is to find the opposite. With the largest Greek community in the country, it’s easy to understand why.
But the Greek community—boasting a national membership of over 9 million members—is much more than a sister- and brotherhood. It’s the perfect niche market.
On a recent episode of Shark Tank, the startup Frill Clothing was featured. It’s purpose? To dress sororities in custom outfits for recruitment, and to make sure no two chapters at any school match. The two girls started this company while they were seniors in college in their sorority. Now they outfit bridal parties, sell pillows, key chains, coffee mugs and much more.
These girls aren’t the only ones capitalizing on this ideal market industry.
On any given day while looking around Total Sorority Move and Total Frat Move websites, advertisements from Rowdy Gentleman appear blazoned along the top and side banners, even appearing hyperlinked in articles. However, these advertisements disappear from any other websites.
Why? Because Rowdy Gentleman wants Greeks to wear their clothing.
By exclusively marketing to the online audiences that follow TSM and TFM—18 to 24 year-old men and women in the Greek community—they stand out among the collegiate elite instead of getting lost in the shuffle of the entire college demographic.
They’ve even expanded their brand to draw in “rowdy ladies”, too. The “Lady” line includes shirts and tank tops with the same punchy sayings as the men’s line, but pointedly more feminine in their feel, design and sayings.
Rowdy Gentleman’s company statement on their website couldn’t be more fitting for their target audience; “equal parts sophisticated and sophomoric, refined and rambunctious.”
Jacquelyn Prestegaard, graduate student and alumni of 4-H House, agreed with their statement, adding the word “shameless” to why she was attracted to the brand. “[S]hameless patriotism and shameless acknowledgement of shameless partying.”
Another consumer of Rowdy Gentleman, Carson Banks, junior and member of Theta Chi fraternity, had other reasons for liking the brand.
“I shop at Rowdy Gentleman because I like the way the clothes look and feel,” he said. Banks also added that the occasional free giveaways with a purchase are “pretty cool, too.” Like Prestegaard, he said he could relate to the brand and the lifestyle it represents.
Niche marketing strategies are nothing new. What makes brands like Rowdy Gentleman, Frill Clothing and countless others are how they’ve capitalized on the niche market. It’s not even that they’ve built their astounding success on minimal paid media and word-of-mouth marketing. By capitalizing on a market of college students that are intensely social and viewed as “elite,” they’ve attached a supreme image to their brand, they’ve cemented their place in the market, and they’ve made themselves virtually untouchable.