On April 7, 2017, the team at MediaMate hosted “Advertising to the College Market: An Industry Discussion” at The Harvard Club in New York City. Here, the MM staff had the opportunity to engage with advertising professionals from across the country to share their knowledge about connecting with university students. It was a truly unique experience for all of the parties involved!
To begin the day, every attendee was asked to introduce themselves with a statement explaining what they hoped to learn from the event. Although each answer varied slightly, most guests noted that they wished to better understand how to relate to college students by humanizing their brands to facilitate that engagement.
The introductions were followed by a roundtable discussion where guests were asked to share stories of their own experiences regarding college marketing. What were some of their successes? Where did they see pitfalls? The group had so much to share, and the discussion was very engaging!
After a brief recess, everyone regrouped and a team of college ambassadors from a variety of schools in the Greater Boston Area gathered to participate in a student-led panel. This provided the advertising professionals with an exclusive opportunity to gather valuable, first-hand information from the targeted market! Many of the questions for the panelists centered around topics that had been brought up throughout the course of the day: the likelihood of brand loyalty within a group that is characteristically not brand loyal, the influence of coupons and discounts as a way to garner student interest, the impact of celebrity influencers over purchase decisions and the best avenues (print, social media, events, etc.) to reach students, and communicate a company's brand message. Additionally, many guests were interested in hearing about what the students perceived to be memorable ad campaigns. Some of the executives even mentioned that they would try to emulate the essence of those campaigns so that they may see that same type of success within their own brands, as well!
Before parting, the group drew a few conclusions based on what they had discussed throughout the day:
- There is no single best way to reach college students since their behavior and brand loyalty levels vary greatly.
- Current college advertising programs are focused on short-term results. Companies must work to develop sustained relevance with college students, perhaps with a long-term program instead of a marketing campaign.
- Students hate being harassed with pop up ads, spam and the like. Most students perceive a negative brand image as a result of these ads. So, team, definitely stay away from these!
- College students like brands that bring value. Coupons, deals, and price are a HUGE deal-breaker when it comes to fostering interest within this market!
- Giveaways are a great way to initially attract students. College kids will walk virtually all the ends of the earth for a free gift! There is no guarantee that the giveaway will resonate with the students’ tastes, but if they have experienced the product in some capacity, there is a higher likelihood that they might buy it (or at least consider buying it) in the future!
- In general, students appear to be too busy to care much about brands. Brands must find a way to make themselves relevant by working around the students’ jam-packed schedules!
In summary. the event was extremely rewarding, and insightful - a complete success! If you’d like to see photos from the event, please click here.