ThinkOTB Agency

3 tips for student marketing

September 27, 2017

University students, and young people in general, are a notoriously difficult demographic to market to. Trends continue to change at lightning speed, social media platforms fall in and out of favour and influencer marketing rules the roost. It can feel like this generation is almost impenetrable when it comes to building brand relationships and engendering trust.

Yet this group becomes ever more influential in buying power and society at large. The question of how to engage young people is becoming ever more acute. University students are one such subgroup. They have the potential to become the CEO’s and politicians of tomorrow. Marketers would do well to tap into this market early on.

We are on the cusp of a new academic year. So, here are three tips for your student advertising to reach universities:

1. Timing is important

Fresher’s Week is a hectic time for new students. The pressures of moving cities, learning to cope away from home and settling in to a new academic routine all compound to create a whirlwind few weeks. Clearly this can be a stressful time for them! Knowing where and when to engage with students is an important lesson to learn.

According to an article by The Drum, the frantic nature of Fresher’s Week means that ‘there is very little time for brands to make meaningful connections.’ Events hosted by universities can seem like an ideal opportunity for brands to announce themselves. But, in fact The Drum pointed out that ‘most of the students we spoke to said they didn’t read any of the branded literature handed to them in Freshers’ Week.’

You don’t need to be the first to engage with students. Being there for them when they need it most could pay better dividends for your marketing strategy. According to The Drum ‘a significant need arises around the middle of the first term, when 30% of the students we spoke to experienced a delayed sense of homesickness.’ Once the excitement of a new environment ebbs and the reality of the university workload kicks in, students are more likely to be receptive. Particularly if that brand is offering them something really desirable. Think about a well-timed pick-me-up, an in-store gift, or a useful life hack to get them through the week. You might even offer a sample of their soon-to-be-favourite new product. These are all invaluable methods for successful student advertising.

2. It’s all about the experience

Students have significantly more expendable cash than is frequently presumed. However, many are more likely to spend this money on memorable experiences and events. Younger demographics prefer experience to tangible products with little emotional value.

The trend towards experiential marketing has been growing in recent years across all demographics. Many brands are increasing budget allocations for such avenues in a bid to boost ROI and shareability. Last year Campaign Live spoke to Managing Director of experiential marketing agency Sense Nick Adams, who argued that now is an exciting time for the industry. He explained ‘experiential marketing has become mainstream and it is incredibly aligned to how brands now are looking to connect to consumers.’ Pointing to Heineken and Innocent as good examples of brands boosting investment in a bid to be ‘relevant’ and ‘meaningful’, the trend is only set to increase in coming years.

This trend is highly adaptable for marketing to university students, as organisations like Campus Media have realised. Specialising in ‘experiential marketing services that are designed to grab the attention of students across the country, challenge perceptions and influence their behaviour,’ many brands could draw inspiration from their ideas. With a self-declared aim to ‘be original, be influential and be memorable,’ those brands looking to engage students must consider how they can tick each of these boxes if they are to leave a lasting impression on this difficult-to-impress generation. 

3. Don’t underestimate serious concerns

University students on the whole, like to party. We all know this! But, presuming that these students are not engaging with the outside world is an oversight. Additionally, seeing this demographic as easily-offended liberal “snowflakes” is a perilous mistake to make.

Some of the most socially conscious, environmentally friendly and politically aware members of society belong to the student demographic. They have serious, legitimate concerns about their future and that of the world. Ensuring that your brand fits all or some of these CSR sectors is vital. It will go a long wat to build trust between students and your brand.

At the beginning of the year, Marketing Week wrote an interesting article about the evolution of university marketing in a post-Brexit world. The article argued that ‘the high price tag of education, fierce competition within the sector and the Brexit vote have combined to mean universities need to work harder than ever to attract Gen Z students.’ Marketing Week suggests that even universities themselves need to find new and innovative ways to engage their students, both current and prospective. 

Marketing Week points out that since ‘the vote to leave the European Union in June sent shockwaves through the university sector.’ Campaigns like #WeAreInternational were both a timely and necessary intervention to. It helped to engage with students worried about the impact of the referendum. It will have a big impact on both on their degree and their experience of living in the UK in the coming years.

Treat students as active and engaged members of society. Listen to their legitimate concerns in the university environment and beyond. In doing so, brands can ensure that they win the hearts and minds of students. There is little doubt that such trust can go a long way in the future. Giving thought to timing, experiences and tone of engagement are essential elements of any student advertising strategy.

Do you want to talk about how to improve your student advertising? Get in touch with our team today.


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