Gen Z college students are a crucial entry-point consumer segment for today’s brands, but making a true impact with this group can be difficult. Between campus restrictions, fragmented media options, ever-changing technology, and the notorious challenges associated with marketing to Gen Z, it can make any marketer scratch their heads and consider throwing in the towel.
Luckily, we’ve been in the game for over 30 years, thoroughly researching and engaging with the country’s youngest consumer segment and sharpening our blades of expertise. And we’re here to tell you: not only can winning over college students be done, but we know how to do it.
One of the staples of a successful college student marketing plan is experiential marketing on campus. College students live and breathe in this social environment for four years, a time when they start to develop their sense of self, their beliefs, and their preferences. Your brand has the opportunity to create meaningful brand experiences that stick with college students as they continue into their adult lives.
From the college marketing experts, here are our top three experiential marketing tactics you can adopt on college campuses to drive an impact when you’re marketing to college students.
What is experiential marketing?
Also referred to as engagement marketing or guerilla marketing, experiential marketing is a marketing tactic that immerses your target audience in an experience related to your brand or product. Instead of just learning about the brand, your potential customers are able to actually experience it in real life. This creates stronger emotional ties to the brand created through memories you share together. Not only does this improve consumer engagement, sales, and loyalty, but it also creates a helpful feedback loop that allows you to collect consumer research in-person and continually improve your product or service.
If you’re looking for campus activation ideas, this is where you should start. Leveraging the power of experiential marketing to reach and influence college students can be a make-or-break strategy for your brand. Let’s get started.
Read next: The Ultimate Guide to Marketing to Gen Z
1. Leverage On-Campus Brand Ambassadors
The first step in creating an experiential on-campus marketing strategy is to enlist on-campus brand ambassadors. A campus ambassador engages with students through on-campus clubs, in one-on-one interactions, through campus presentations, and online through social media. This word-of-mouth, peer-to-peer marketing is extremely powerful—92% of people say they trust their friends’ recommendations over direct advertising.
According to Refuel’s College Explorer Series™, on campus advertising through student ambassadors attracts impressive attention—of those who interacted with a campus ambassador 42% went on to research the product, 28% bought the product or redeemed the discount, and 26% mentioned the brand to friends and family.
Your college brand ambassadors will be your eyes and ears on campus for the duration of your campaign, able to adeptly navigate that college’s social scene and influence their peers. They are also a staple to efficiently executing guerrilla marketing campaigns on campus to promote your brand.
2. Utilize On-Campus Out-of-Home Advertising
When teens leave their parents to go to college, college campuses quickly become their new homes, learning environments, and social world. College students are surrounded by like-minded peers, respected professors and mentors that influence students in a time when they are learning what they think, what they believe, and how they will navigate the world.
And despite the fact that Gen Z are digital natives and the lines are very blurry between their digital lives and real lives, 0ut-of-home (OOH) media is a highly effective media choice for influencing college students. In fact, this may even be the case because of the effect of digital advertising. Out-of-home advertising is able to cut through the noise and influence Gen Z consumers in trusted environments. According to Refuel Explorer Series: College Edition, teens are 39% more likely to recall on campus out-of-home ads, and 78% of students look at posters and media boards on their campus at least a few times a week.
Strategically-placed on-campus out-of-home advertising is a key tenet in a successful experiential marketing strategy for college students. Out-of-home media garners repeat impressions, sparks conversations among peer groups, and supports your overall omnichannel marketing strategy.
Read next: Your Complete Guide to On-Campus Advertising
3. Create Unforgettable Experiences
Gen Z prefers experiences and wants to be seen “in-the-wild”, and your brand can cater to this desire by creating a share-worthy in-person experience that will both draw Gen Z in and prompt them to share on social media and with their friends.
College age students want to collaborate and connect with brands—they want brands to cultivate experiences with them and enhance their personalities. Fourteen-year-old entrepreneur Mercer Henderson explains that her friends don’t use Snapchat filters that look and feel like branded campaigns. After all, what are they getting out of using a filter with a company’s logo on in? Instead, Henderson recommends creating filters that interact with users’ personalities, like the all-time favorite puppy filter.
To create unforgettable experiences, think about what kind of experiences will pique Gen Z’s attention, create buzz, and prompt social sharing. Think photographable installations, engaging product demonstrations, custom campus Snapchat filters, and more.
Read next: How to Reach Gen Z This Holiday Season
Marketing to Gen Z college students isn’t just important—winning over your Gen Z customers is crucial for your business’ long-term success. Luckily, experiential marketing tactics on college campuses can drive significant impacts for your brand—and all it takes is the right team to get you there. Contact us today for more on campus marketing ideas and a targeted plan for reaching college students.