WRITTEN BY: JANELLE MASON
Most businesses that reside in college towns know that there is a huge opportunity when marketing to college students and yet still struggle to understand what drives a college student to purchase something.
Businesses are marketing toward a new generation. Millennials consist of 75.7 million people, ranging from 19 to 36 years old—they are your college market. Messages and platforms have changed drastically over the past few decades, and Millennials have grown up in an environment full of options for just about everything. With so many options available to students, businesses have fewer chances to make a lasting impression. The visibility of your brand is essential in reaching this market, and having a presence on as many platforms as possible will give you the best opportunity to be successful.
Though a strong presence is important, the messages are ultimately what will drive a student to trust and choose your business. Here are five ways you can make an impact in your college market:
Understanding values of college students:
The core values of Millennials are more inward-focused. These values differ from the outward-focused core values that are highly ranked among older generations. A lack of awareness and response to the following core values could lead to a severe disconnect between you and the student population.
You may be thinking to yourself, “But I target both the student population and older generations.” The solution here is to think about the target market for the different advertising mediums that you are using and use the values of the audience for that medium. For example, if you have an ad in a student planner, that ad should target the millennial college student’s core values.
Communicate lifestyle, not age relevance:
Students of this generation try to avoid conformity, and businesses should accordingly think outside the box. Ultimately, successful businesses will make the link between their brand and the student lifestyle. There’s more to life in college besides studying and attending class. Businesses should seek opportunities to amplify the students’ reality.
- Target student organizations: Student organizations are always looking for fundraising ideas and ways to impact the community. Businesses in college towns can become significant contributors to their college market. Students are attracted to brands they can TRUST, and what better way to attract them to your business than working together to build a true sense of community?
- Know what’s going on at your university: Papa Johns, as part of a new partnership with North Carolina State University Athletics, offered a 50% discount for online orders made the day after any NCSU win in basketball or football for the 2012-2013 season. There is hardly a better way to get the attention of the campus community than to cheer on their teams and offer great deals on game day, event weeks, and in celebration of great achievements.
Don’t try too hard:
With the vast number of options available to students today, businesses should seek to educate students about their brand and allow them to make their own decisions. A downfall of many businesses in the college market is trying TOO hard to reach the students. Overselling yourself may actually turn potential student customers away. Make sure the students are well informed and involved, and not SOLD to.
Attach your name to current trends:
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a huge success for ALS and many people utilized it as a platform to humanize their organizations. Participating in current trends and getting involved in popular conversations will earn you credibility with the college crowd. Don’t feel pressured to deliver a cookie cutter marketing initiative. Sometimes it’s OK to just be “cool.”
Reach students at transitional periods:
Timing is everything. There are limited opportunities for businesses to make an impression on young students, so targeting them at the perfect time can make the difference. Students have key transitional periods such as freshman year, summer and winter breaks, moving off campus, and graduation. Understanding what a student needs is often obvious, but reaching them at the right time can be a challenge. Be mindful of student and university calendars, so you can make the most impactful impressions.