College students are some of the most important and lucrative prospects your brand should be considering when looking to expand your marketing strategies — and we’re here to break down why you should advertise to college students. Every year, millions of students graduate from high school and move on to college. It’s their first taste of financial independence, as well as independence from their parents and many of their other peers who likely had a lot of influence on them and their decisions.
For them, it’s a time of growth, experiences and rapid change. For marketers, it’s a time where these new higher education students are solidifying their identities and open to novel ideas and experiences. A brand that engages college students is a brand that will solidify long-term preferences early on in their customer’s life – all but guaranteeing a long-term relationship.
College students are one of the most important markets you can cater to
When you’re examining college students as a potential avenue for your marketing strategy, the first thing that you should consider is the sheer size and volume of the demographic. This group of nearly 16 million consumers in the 18-24 age range have a staggering purchasing power of $376 billion every year. They are also a group that is largely searching for an identity – something that brands can help to fill out and align with. To put it simply, college students are an ideal focus for a targeted marketing strategy, because they can and will happily engage and spend their money with companies that they feel align with their values and provide them with special consideration.
There is another very important aspect to bear in mind when thinking of college students as a target market. They are slated to earn more money over the course of their lives than people without post-secondary education. According to the Association of Public & Land Grant Universities, college graduates make $36,000 more per year on average than high school graduates. Today’s broke student is tomorrow’s big spender. As such, it’s important to get your message across to them while they’re still flexible enough to be engaged with your brand and develop lifetime relationships with them during this time.
Some avenues are better for connecting with college students than others
With the current wave of higher education students belonging to “Gen Z,” companies have to find ways to engage with a motivated, media savvy, and fully keyed in audience. Reaching out to them through traditional and social media channels will work to a degree – but the real objective companies should be looking for is finding ways to make a genuine connection. If you want your Generation Z higher education audience to truly engage with your brand, you should be doing the following:
- Offering discounts: The broke college student is a cliche for a reason – many of them have relatively limited money at this point in their life and will jump at the chance for a deal. Offering student discounts is an easy and effective way to boost brand loyalty. Refuel’s research has shown that 43% of Gen Z consumers are more loyal to brands that offer student discounts.
- Give them an experience: Just offering your products and services isn’t enough. But giving students experiences that allow them to engage with your brand and have fun can be enough to make them remember you for a lifetime. By showing college students what your brand is about, you’ll be more likely to convince them that you are aligned.
- Connect them with fellow students: Brand ambassadors, otherwise known as student ambassadors, recruited from the student body of individual campuses that you want to target can put a human face on your brand that can help you build trust. Students are social and want to trust their peers – having brand ambassadors can help kickstart word-of-mouth campaigns.
Key considerations to bear in mind for college marketing
Gen Z consumers are some of the most knowledgeable, media-savvy and clued-in buyers ever in the U.S. It takes some persuasion to get them on your side, and to do so, you often must align with their beliefs. Gen Z likes to support brands that act in accordance with their ethics and deeply held values. Refuel research has shown that between 45-48% of Gen Z views themselves as progressive on environmental, race and gender issues. This means that your company needs to ensure their marketing strategy aligns with them politically – on at least some level – to get and keep their attention. Attaching yourself to a cause and taking charitable steps to benefit it is a win-win: You get excellent PR, encourage brand loyalty from young consumers and get to engage in meaningful corporate social responsibility initiatives. Pure content marketing alone won’t work, you have to make a commitment.
College marketing is a unique opportunity for your brand
Not only does marketing to college students potentially get you lifetime customers who will be in the upper echelon of spending, it also presents new and exciting opportunities to show off your advertising chops. You have major opportunities on every channel imaginable, from social media marketing via brand ambassadors to physical marketing on campus.
With COVID-19 slowing down, students are flooding back to campuses and presenting unique opportunities for on-campus marketing at higher education institutions. Students spend nearly 70% of their day on campus, which makes advertising on their campuses one of the best ways to ensure you catch their attention. This method works. Eighty percent of college students look at on-campus media, and 78% percent of students check media boards at least a few times a week – of those, 50% do research on the brands they see there. Those are numbers that are only truly rivaled by the early days of email marketing (before it got so saturated that marketers had to make do with only a few percentage points for engagement).
As a marketer, if you’re looking to connect with Gen Z college students where they will engage with your brand, Refuel can help make that a reality. We are the largest provider of media services for college students and have delivered custom campus marketing campaigns across 2,400+ colleges and universities. If you’re looking to make customers for life – contact us today.