Why You Must Absolutely Market to College Students

We’ve all heard plenty about millennials (or Generation Y), those born between 1976 and 1994. But as that generation continues to age, marketers are starting to shift their attention to the next generation—Generation Z, those born in 1995 or later. Some of them are already old enough to be in college, and it won’t be long before they have careers and families.

As Generation Z’s influence inevitably grows, marketers will be forced to adapt to engage this audience in new ways. Marketing-savvy companies are beginning to understand that college students represent a tremendous marketing opportunity that will go far beyond immediate buying decisions. If brands can capture the hearts and minds of the next generation of buyers today, they’ll have a leg up on their competition for years to come. Before we talk about the ‘how,’ let’s talk about the ‘why.’

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Why You Should be Marketing to College Students

Why should your brand invest in marketing to Gen Z?

According to a survey conducted by global media agency UM, 75 percent, of roughly 600 American students, identified doing well on their first test as a milestone, while 71 percent said getting their first bad grade is another meaningful moment. Other milestones include the first set of final exams, moving into a dorm and registering for classes.

In addition to changing the game of marketing, these college students are in a unique purchasing position. For the very first time in their lives, they get to choose how they will spend their money. The sooner you build a relationship and deep connection with Gen Z, the better—because today’s college students will continue to purchase from you as an adult.

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How to Successfully Market to College Students.

Successfully marketing to college students requires adapting your campus marketing strategies to connect with millennials—but if you do it well, the results can be tremendous. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Made of the Good Stuff.

Forty percent of students said the quality of the items they purchase to be of value to them, second to price. These young adults are at a turning point in their lives, when they recognize the need to spend a little more on something that will last them a lot longer.

Location, Location, Location.

The last thing these students find to an important factor in making purchases is the proximity of the store/restaurant. In addition to be tight on cash, some students don’t always have access to a car while they’re on campus. This leaves them looking to friends for rides or relying on public transportation. If you’re in close proximity to your student’s’ campus, positioning your campaign to highlight this convenience may lead to a boost in sales and overall brand awareness!

Once you have a plan in place to market to Gen Z, you also need to have a plan for how to recruit them and maintain their attention. Be sure to:

  • Cater to the entrepreneurial drive. Dial into this entrepreneurial spirit by giving Gen Z employees a dose of autonomy. Don’t just give them tasks; let them focus on a new project that is directly tied to your business’s success. Gen Z loves to see the evolution of an idea from inception to tangible impact.
  • Regularly offer perks and rewards. Gen Z proves to be more motivated by opportunities for advancement than they are by money. They are incredibly strategic, especially after witnessing the aftermath of the Great Recession on their Gen Y peers, so they are eager for opportunities to learn and are realistic about the fact that learning opportunities don’t always pay well. Use this as inspiration for your perk strategy. Maybe your Gen Z employees who reach a certain sales goal can be on a team to pioneer a new project.
  • Go old-school with your communication style. Gen Z sees the relationship between manager and employee as similar to the relationship between teacher and student. They want to feel like their manager is highly interested in their progress and dedicated to helping them improve.

Generation Z like attention, flexibility, and growth. Brainstorming new and innovative ways to motivate college students to get involved can be challenging. We have a variety of resources and a staff ready to help put our target research to work to ensure your activities bring in a higher ROI. To get started, check out our blog post about activity ideas for you student ambassadors!


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