How to Win at On-Campus Marketing During Welcome Weekend
Two-thirds of college students say that once they fall in love with a brand, they’ll support it for many years into the future. That’s why developing brand loyalty with college students is the best way to make your marketing efforts see long-term returns.
At College Marketing Group, our business is helping brands connect with those college students. And yes, digital marketing is a big part of our approach. Email, social media, viral videos, memes, hashtags — we’re all about it.
But we also know that a critical part to developing brand loyalty with your target audience is to get out in the real world and interact face-to-face with customers.
This is especially true with today’s college students, who are particularly keen to engage with a brand before handing over their hard-earned money, according to a recent study by the National Retail Federation and IBM.
Engaging means getting on campus and marketing to college students in the real world. But a booth at an orientation fair is far from original or memorable for college students. Investing in on-campus marketing is an opportunity for your brand to make a meaningful connection with potential lifetime customers.
So why not be a bit more ambitious and really make a splash with your next on-campus marketing campaign? From enlisting brand ambassadors on campus and sponsoring student clubs to setting up contests and giveaways, here’s our guide to promoting your brand on college campuses.
Just like the rest of us, college students love the word “free.” So why not set up a give-away on campus?
If your actual product is affordable to produce, like an energy drink or breakfast bar, give away free samples. A sample gives students the chance to try your product and decide if it’s something they want more of.
If you can’t give away free samples of what you’re selling, try free swag emblazoned with your logo and/or slogan. We’re talking shirts, hats, koozies, bags — you name it. Swag operates as a moving billboard every time a student sports it out on the town or to class.
You also don’t have to give away something related to your brand or product to build loyalty, you can just giveaway a great experience in the name of your brand. Buy some pizzas, set up a table on or near campus, and offer free slices to passing students. You can say “Hey, this is courtesy of Brand X. Rock on!” You’re offering college students something they want, and creating a memorable, positive and branded moment while you’re at it.
And when giving something away, be sure to use it as an opportunity for a small ask. Offer that swag, sample, or freebie in exchange for a follow on Instagram or a quick sign-up for your email newsletter.
To boost the effectiveness of your giveaways, add a contest element to the promotion. Offer recipients of your giveaway a referral code to use to get their friends to signup for your newsletter or to follow you on social media. College students that reach a certain number of referrals can get an extra valuable prize!
To get college students more interested in what you’re doing, cater your promotion to their specific school. Refer to the school’s logo, mascot, hometown, slogan, or other unique traits in your signage and marketing language:
Say you’re a brand that sells a drink called Crazy Bomb and your slogan is “It’s What Heroes Drink”. You’re about to promote your drink at a college whose mascot is a water buffalo. Make an alternative shirt design that says, ‘Crazy Bomb: It’s What Water Buffalos Drink’. Maybe not the most inspiring mental image, but you get the idea.
You can also create a discount code or offer that’s exclusive to that campus. Print off coupons in collaboration with a local convenience store offering “Buy One Get One Crazy Bombs for Water Buffalos Only!”
If your business isn’t based in the same city as the college campuses where you’re advertising, coordinate your efforts with a local business that can benefit from a collaborative promotion.
Like the example above, you can partner with local convenience stores to sell your product to college students at a discount. But collaboration can also extend beyond direct retail promotions.
Say you’re promoting a new dating app. Find the coffee shop or ice cream place near campus that best fits the app’s brand vibe, and set up a co-promo: Your first date set up on the app gets you a BOGO deal at the establishment. Your app has a selling point, and the local business gets more customers. It’s a win-win.
Even if your hired marketing team makes a good impression during an on-campus marketing campaign, they can easily be forgotten the very next day. When it comes down to it, college students are more likely to trust their friends over an outsider.
Student brand ambassadors are a key to building brand trust with college students on-campus. They’re more persuasive when talking to their peers about the brands and products they love, and they’re physically present on campus all year.
Any student that’s passionate about your brand can make a great ambassador, but it’s especially helpful if they’re a bit of an influencer. Look for students with a large amount of followers on social media. And if you’re more focused on establishing a higher grade of loyalty with a more specific group of students, look for those who are in positions of power on campus — club presidents, sorority leaders, student council members, etc.
For example, concert promoters regularly use street teams to distribute show flyers. In exchange, street team members get free tickets to shows.
Here are a few ways to leverage on-campus college student ambassadors:
One way to get students to become word-of-mouth ambassadors for your brand is to support and collaborate with on-campus, student-run clubs and organizations that are relevant to your brand in some way.
For example, we all know that gamers and coders love to stay up all night in front of their computers, chugging energy drinks to keep the fun going until sunrise. Why shouldn’t that energy drink be Crazy Bomb? Well, if you sponsor their next 72-hour Hack-a-thon, it will be!
Or maybe part of your branding is passion for a social issue. Donating products, services, or cash in the form of a grant to a student organization that works on that specific issue is an excellent way to engender loyalty and trust between your brand and the students in that organization.
Reaching out to student clubs is not only effective brand marketing directly to the students most likely to be interested in what you’re all about — it also has the tertiary effect of turning those students into brand ambassadors who might tell their friends about how cool your company is.
With all the activity going on each day on a college campus, it can be hard to stand out. A memorable stunt may be what you need to get the attention of college students on campus.
Setting up a booth on the campus quad to give away samples of your Crazy Bomb energy drink is a fine idea. But staging a WWF-style stage with a wrestler dressed up as a water buffalo, ready to take on any student with the guts to enter the ring? Now we’re talking.
You could give a free shirt to every student who wrestles the water buffalo, win or lose, and include free samples to the crowd of students that will inevitably gather to watch the spectacle. And if a student can pin the Crazy Bomb-fueled beast, they win free Crazy Bomb for a year!
This goes without saying, but whatever fun stunt you choose, check with the administration to make sure it’s allowed first, and that you have the right insurance for it!
Advertising to college students effectively requires a multi-faceted approach. Brands need to have a heavy influence on college students both on- and off-campus in the digital realm, where college students spend a lot of time every day.
Digital marketing to college students is a fast-changing industry. But staying ahead of the trends is our job. Yours is to focus on your business.
That’s why we offer both digital and on-campus solutions for all your college marketing needs. We’re happy to share all the tricks of the trade we learn along the way to make it easier for you to reach your college marketing goals. That includes what we know about the latest trends on marketing to college students.