How does your brand market to college students, and what sets it apart? Many of us are looking back on college, and trying to figure out how to capture these elusive, busy students. It can be difficult; but we’d like to suggest putting yourself in their shoes.
Meet Katie. She’s peppy, smart, and involved on campus. She attends a university just outside Boston with 7,000 undergrads. Together we will explore a day in her life. Pay attention to all the marketing outlets she is exposed to today. You might be surprised.
Let’s dive into Katie’s day. She rolls out of bed at 7:30 am, just in time to shower, grab a coffee, and head to class. Right here, she’s been exposed to multiple brands. First, over twenty beauty products, all of which are “roommate approved”. Each of her three roommates has five shower products which she is free to sample as she pleases. On her way to class she stops by Dunkin Donuts and grabs a large iced latte. Despite being from New York, she is forced to tote around a cup with a Red Sox logo on it simply because she’s in Boston. Katie strolls into class and opens up her laptop (with a Burton sticker decorating the lid). First she checks Facebook, then her student e-mail, and finally her personal e-mail. She is bombarded with e-mails from her sorority, the literary society, retail stores, the university police, and her mother. Her best friend forwarded a link to a contest, which she enters and then shares across her social media outlets. While on Facebook, she sees that her crush updated his status to the lyrics from his favorite song. Katie pops them in Google to see what her next iTunes download will be. She sees an Anthropology banner ad featuring the hottest new looks for Spring. She’s forwards a link of a dress to her sister to gain approval before buying.
After two more classes, Katie heads down to the dining hall for lunch. She grabs a copy of the campus paper while she waits for five of her sorority sisters. A tanning salon minutes from campus is offering an exclusive package for college students; she rips the coupon out, throws the paper in her tote and finds a table with the girls.
The tanning salon knows that 82% of college students have read their campus paper in the past three months. Pepsi knows that most students will visit the dining hall daily, so Pepsi provides fountain soda for the school. A college student is in the beginning of their customer life cycle. If advertisers don’t target this market now, it will be difficult to gain their business once they are loyal to a competitor.
While they eat, Katie mentions that coupon she grabbed earlier and asks the sisters if they wanted to join. Three of them jump up and grab a copy of the paper immediately. Katie notices her sisters’ clothing choices. Two are wearing the sorority sweatshirt, one is wearing a JCrew top, one is sporting an Underarmour jacket, and the last, a Boston Red Sox t-shirt. She compliments the JCrew top, and the sister explains when she bought it and the additional colors it came in.
Katie continues her day, tennis practice at 3pm, group meeting at 7, and finally reruns of Jersey Shore at 10. She encounters hundreds, even thousands of marketing outlets throughout her afternoon. CBS News tells us a person typically is exposed to 5,000 advertisements per day. It’s likely Katie exceeds that; she reads magazines at the gym, she watches TV while surfing the Internet, and relies on her friends for fashion advice and the hottest new trends.
The first step to marketing to college students is understanding them. The best way to get your product in their hands starts with knowing your customer. Lesson # 4 from Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People is, “Become genuinely interested in other people. Take a sincere interest in them. Don’t just pretend you’re interested. Everybody has something interesting about them. Find out what it is.” This means finding out what motivates them, why they do things, and how they do things. Having this insight will help you as a marketer know where and how you fit into their lives.
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