Marketing to College Students

By editorial staff, writer
| Updated
Jun 10, 2020
Image Credit: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Find future customers when you get schooled on student trends and targets.

Even though they may not make a lot of money, college students spend a ton of it. And they don't just spend it on Ramen noodles. Instead, modern-day scholars are buying everything from electronics and entertainment to apparel and spring break vacations.

Students are teaching enterprising marketers some valuable lessons about their future customers. Among them are several reasons why they are worth a slice of your offline and online marketing budget:

  1. College students are educated, brand-loyal consumers.
  2. The college market is geographically stable.
  3. More than 15 million U.S. college students spend more than $200 billion annually.
  4. Consisting almost exclusively of 18- to 24-year-olds, the college demographic is remarkably age stable.
  5. Marketing to college students is cost-effective because they respond more favorably to grassroots messaging than to flashy ads. 

1. Profile your student targets.

The needs and buying habits of a student at a four-year university, for instance, will differ considerably from those of a student at a two-year college. Similarly, reaching students that live on campus requires different strategies than one might use to reach students who live off-campus. As such, decide what type of student you want to reach with your product or service before you begin marketing it.

2. Get online.

College students are extremely media savvy. Their medium of choice, however, is definitely the internet. Modern-day college students grew up with the world wide web and spend hours at a time online studying, surfing the net and socializing with their friends. Smart marketers can not only to advertise to their young customers but interact with them, too. Create a well-designed website that appeals to the college demographic and link it to your social media profiles for maximum effect.

3. Turn campuses into ads.

Enterprising marketers can literally decorate a college campus with their message. Use sidewalk chalk to create eye-catching ads on campus thoroughfares and post flyers on campus bulletin boards, where they're sure to catch receptive students' eyes.  

4. Buy ads in campus media.

Every college has a newspaper, and many have student-run TV stations and magazines. Advertising in them is both an inexpensive and an effective way to reach college students.

5. Sponsor student events.

Lending your support and your money to on-campus events can get you valuable exposure within your target market and can also build your reputation as a student-friendly business.

6. Make students feel special.

Businesses often ignore – or even reject – their student customers. Companies that make an extra effort not only to accommodate college students, but to cater to them – with special student discounts, services, etc.– can therefore easily lay claim to their cash.

7. Build buzz.

College students talk. A lot. Companies can, therefore, initiate a storm of free marketing just by giving them something exciting and inventive to talk about.

8. Send both snail mail and email

College students change addresses often, but love to get mail nonetheless. Direct mail, then, is an easy and effective way to get them excited about your company. Don't neglect students' email inboxes, though, as most students check their email at least once daily.

  • Students aren't just students. Consider your college customers' other attributes – their interests, for example – and target them through appropriate non-student media.

  • Because they grew up in an ad-saturated world, college students are harder to reach with traditional advertising. They are more likely to respond to word of mouth, including recommendations from their friends.

  • College students are "trial receptive," meaning that they are open to new ideas and have yet to develop strong brand affiliations.

  • Remember that while the college market is incredibly stable and static, individual student consumers are moving targets, changing both attitudes and addresses frequently.

  • Don't just sell stuff to students. Instead, focus on building relationships with them.

  • College students are trendsetters. Even when they're not making purchases, they're influencing them.

9. Promote affordability

Additionally, according to The Pollack Group, another method of marketing to college students is by providing products and services that are affordable. Although college students are no strangers to splurging, they are also often on a tighter budget than most. Therefore, by marketing products and services that are affordable, they will be more likely to become a customer.

10. Provide incentives

Moreover, by providing them with incentives, this will also make them more likely to shop with your company. For instance, if you provide college students with discounts, this can be a great way to attract new college customers and maintain existing ones. Additionally, you can also do things such as provide free trials or samples, which can also be a great way to attract college customers.

11. Be funny

Also, by making your marketing efforts funny, this is an excellent method of making your marketing memorable in the minds of your potential college customers. If they find your ad to be especially hilarious, you have a greater chance of going viral. This would not only mean exposure to college students but to potential customers of all kinds. editorial staff editorial staff
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