A couple of years ago the fabulous Levo League appeared on the web, glittering not with celebrity sparkle but brainy articles for young professional women beginning their twenties and their careers. A fortuitous find at a time when I fell neatly in their target demographic, I watched with fascination as this unabashedly feminine, unabashedly business social start-up tackled the task of inspiring, encouraging and guiding young and well-educated women to flourish beyond graduation. And when the most successful investor of the 20th Century, Warren Buffett showed up for an interview with Caroline Ghosn, many stopped to pay attention. Most start-ups crash and burn in a way that only the most tenacious and passionate survive, but the online network for young professional women now boasts several million members and has only improved its service over time. Most impressive to me is that the authenticity of Levo’s cause is not only spoken for in word but is self-evident in the execution of their strategy, which is followed through in even the most easily neglected areas (and that’s when you know people care):
1. Purple- yes purple: Levo purple (which even has its own Pinterest board) is a simple but highly significant point of difference in Levo’s branding; it is feminine but with more credibility and distinction than its Barbie and trash-mag counterpart, subtly distinguishing Levo from the pervasive cultural products that have arguably constructed the very world in which girls are otherwise funnelled into lesser things. The colour choice reflects sophistication and luxury in a way that is more woman than girl, more brains than plastic, and is spot-on for its target demographic.
2. Name: “Levo League” is an inherently purposeful and idealistic name, which speaks of lifting up and collective support, inspiring and appealing to a social conscience. But the Latin root and almost “Ivy League” title also connotes excellence and higher academia, which is appealing to their target market of young graduates. It is both welcoming and elite, encouraging and inspiring – exactly as Levo claims to be – all spoken for in a name. The fact that it is not a throwaway branding demonstrates that the cause is taken seriously. Women as mentors, sisters and helpers – not the catfight stereotypes.
3. The personal touch: New members of Levo receive a signed welcome letter from Caroline with her picture, which is almost as good as a personal welcome, and far better than the standard “login and cough up a username and password”. It’s like being welcomed like a sister in a sorority (not that I would know) or the sisterhood of the travelling pants (pure conjecture). Its members are almost encouraged to feel like one of a club of girlfriends, not just like the user of a service, which on the web is unusual and therefore memorable.
The site enables interactive profiles, the articles are often in first-person, the mentors are real women in business. Considering Levo espouses ideals of community and women lifting up and mentoring one other, this is brilliantly communicated by example from the start and upheld by its structure and design.
4. What women like: The “curate” tab delighted me when it was first introduced as it allows users to take ownership of the management of their content. While women will not always aggressively document and market their achievements in a profile, the idea of collecting and organising is a natural and accessible starting point – perhaps why Pinterest is so female-dominated – but also encourages women to participate in the site (plus the pictures are pretty, which also matters).
Importantly, it does not feel like these decisions were market-researched or targeted in a predatory way. As a network by young women, for women, it comes across as a collective stance; “This is what we like, this is where we’re going”.
5. Generosity: The actual content on Levo – both images and writing – authentically reflects the ideals of the “social good” start-up and builds trust and relationship with the service. The articles contain genuinely valuable advice and real-world experiences, produced by young professional women and companies. Its “Office Hours” initiative includes contributions from some of the most visible names in business (including Warren Buffet, and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg).
For a site that’s about professionalism and not just fun, it is also rightly communicated with classical styling and higher-quality aesthetics, which stand out in the generally lower quality images so pervasive on the web. It speaks to people who seek excellence, and apart from being great strategy, it’s simply good stuff. The value and quality of their content makes it a no-brainer to follow them across social media, which they keep consistently updated.
This integrity of purpose pays more than just lip-service to young female talent. More than a passing buzz around feminism, it demonstrates the excellence and character this cause deserves, and is itself a great example of the very ideal it – and we – can root for. And perhaps in the greatest marketing genius of all – as with many brands of the social-good kind – the top advocates are its own users, people who believe in its value (apparently even enough to write about them!).