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How to Win at College Student Marketing During Finals Week

By collegemktgrp | October 17, 2019 | Brands/Advertisers

Anyone who has spent time in college remembers the pain and suffering that is finals week. With too much to do and not enough time, stress is common for college students in this GPA-making (or breaking) week.

Studies show that 86% of students feel overwhelmed during finals week, with nearly as many also reporting physical exhaustion.

If you’re a brand trying to engage with college students, this means you should be considerate of their needs and challenges during this stressful time. Strategizing ways in which you can them get through it can be a potent way to build customer loyalty.

Some of the most common stressors for college students during finals week are:

  • No time to eat
  • No time to shower
  • No time to relax
  • No time to sleep
  • No time to clean

Notice a trend? College students are busy during finals week! So how can your brand help college students see to their basic needs with limited time and limited money?

College Marketing Group ran a study with a panel of college students to find out. The first thing we learned is that for college students, finals week is really finals month — exams, papers, and the like are stretched out over a long period at the end of each semester.

For students, this only adds to the build-up of stress. For your brand, it presents an even greater opportunity to address students’ needs during this critical time.

From wasting their time to giving college students stuff they don’t really need, here are 5 things not to do when marketing during finals week.

1. Don’t Take Any More of Their Time

If it were another time throughout the year, we’d say brands should be creating engaging, interactive experiences on-campus to create memorable marketing that leaves an impression on students. And at the very least, when you do giveaways and the like on campus, you should be collecting email addresses, asking for social media follows, etc.

All this goes out the window during finals week. Our panel of students reveal that on-campus marketing that requires any of their time is more of an annoyance than an aid during finals.

Instead, when you do your on-campus marketing during finals week, make it all about the students. If you’re handing out free energy drinks or snacks, be sure the product and your booth are branded with your logo, website, social media handles, QR code, etc., and leave it at that.

Allowing students to simply grab and go shows them that you understand they’re busy and that you respect their time, which will create a lasting positive interaction with your brand.

2. Don’t Bother with Merchandise Giveaways or Discounts

One interesting thing our study revealed is that students are more likely to buy themselves things like clothes, electronic devices, and other such products during finals week as a sort of retail therapy to help deal with the stress. Think of it as a “treat yo’ self” for a job well done!

Giving away merchandise that falls into these categories is less likely to be effective during finals, because students are more likely to just buy themselves the hat, shirt, video game system, etc. that they want anyway.

Instead of giving away things students might want, you should focus giveaways on things they need during finals — namely, food. That brings us to our next point.

3. Don’t Ignore the Allure of Free Food

As we discussed earlier, college students are often too busy to get around to eating a proper meal during finals week. They’re likely to end up downing pizza, fast food, and snacks from the vending machine when they finally realize they haven’t eaten in 12 hours.

Research shows that a bad diet and poor nutrition only increases stress and has harmful emotional effects — not helpful during finals!

Our panel of students say they know they’re likely to eat unhealthy food during finals, and they also express the desire to avoid such eating habits.

It makes sense, then, that a great angle for on-campus marketing is to give away healthy foods that’ll boost students’ energy. Consider whole-grain granola bars, fruit and yogurt cups, and string cheese.

Make it easy to pick up on their way to class and just be sure to brand the packaging and/or your table. It helps if your ambassadors who are administering giveaways are wearing branded shirts or hats as well.

4. Don’t Hesitate to Give Away Money

For college students during finals, time is their biggest stressor, followed closely by money.

If you’re doing a promotion that does take any of a student’s time, you should be prepared to pay for it. You could give away cash or gift cards to local businesses. But there are other alternatives, too.

Here are a few ideas of cash-related giveaways for students during finals:

Parking passes

One of our student panel’s biggest complaints is dealing with parking on campus during finals — try manning parking spots and when students park, ask them if they’d like free parking. They can quickly sign up for your email list or give you a follow while your ambassador pays their parking. Just be sure that the process is quick!

Gym passes

Students say they like to work out as a way to de-stress. Giving away gift cards or day passes to a local gym near off-campus housing could be a good strategy, especially if your target audience is fitness-conscious.

More free food

Give away gift cards or vouchers for meals to local restaurants near campus.

Straight cash

Give away cash or Visa gift cards.

5. Don’t Make College Students Work for Your Coupons & Passes

Just as you should be mindful of students’ time in your on-campus marketing, you should also be considerate of how long your digital promotions take to engage with.

You should streamline your online promotions that are targeted to college students during finals week, otherwise they might fall out your lead funnel before they reach the end.

If you’re giving out promo codes, free downloads, etc. in exchange for a like, follow, email address, or other contact info, be sure to keep it simple! Same goes for any sales targeted to college students during finals.

For example, if you run a Facebook ad that offers $10 off to students on a certain product, they shouldn’t have to go through 3 or 4 different pages after clicking on the ad.

Instead, when they click on the ad, it should automatically land them on a checkout page with the product already in the cart. And checking out shouldn’t require setting up an account with a password and all the rest.

Additionally, the pages on your site should be very clear to read and easily navigable. Students are likely clicking on your ad while taking a quick break from studying, and they don’t want to go down a rabbit hole trying to take advantage of the promotion you’re offering.

The Beginning of the Semester is Just as Important as the End

Each part of the school year comes with its own unique challenges for brands trying to reach college students. Finals week presents a big opportunity, yes — but so does welcome week!

Read our guide on how to win at on-campus marketing during the first week of the semester »

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