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When I attended Michigan State University, I was a student ambassador on campus for 10 brands. This early experience allowed me to apply my perspective as a student to effective company branding and marketing. Today, as the CEO of a youth marketing agency, I work with companies to revamp, streamline and put some zest into their marketing efforts toward the college student demographic.
Recently, I’ve worked with undergraduate college career centers on their branding, which has helped me to further hone my understanding of the student perspective on campus. If you’re not seeing success in marketing to this group, it may be time to refocus your traditional marketing tactics. From my experience, here’s how to effectively market to college students.
Show, don’t tell.
Every English teacher tells storytellers to “show, not tell” in their writing. The same rule applies in marketing. Advertisements, emails and various online graphics don’t need to be saturated with written content. This has the potential to create an overwhelming impression of your products or services. So, instead of creating an ad with dozens of bullet points, include some catchy and easily digestible graphics.
I recently heard Grace Foy of Vanderbilt University speak at ACE’s annual conference, where she revealed that she initiated a highly successful street sign campaign. The concept was to create posters and postcards with photos of well-known street signs with the short message of “Your Career Starts Here.”
Brands can learn a lot from this example to create high-performing marketing campaigns. Use real pictures as a background to help students connect with your message. Include seasonal font colors. For example, during the spring semester, I use bright pastels. Speaking of fonts, you should never use more than three on any piece of content; depending on the size of your copy, it usually only warrants two. One thing I’ve learned is that students don’t linger on a graphic and admire which fonts you’ve chosen. They want the message to be quick and legible.
I follow my own rule of “one-thumb swipe.” If a student is on their cell phone and has to use their thumb to scroll up more than once, the graphic is too long.
And make sure the right person is doing the telling.
Authenticity is everything. Identify students who are willing to act as brand ambassadors and have them submit a headshot with a three-sentence blurb about their unique experience. You can use this as a marketing testimonial to highlight the authenticity of your brand.
Grace Foy spoke to the effectiveness of letting students share their stories, revealing at the conference that the student response was much greater when there was a recognizable face on their Instagram account speaking to the challenges of the job search. They had student ambassadors speak to the steps they took alongside the Vanderbilt Career Center to find internships.
Brands can learn from this example as well. Many college students are active on social media, so encourage them to share an Instagram Story or a Facebook post detailing their experience with your brand. The formula for the best student spotlight stories usually involves a student who had a problem and found the solution to that problem thanks to your brand. Learn more about what it takes to create a successful student ambassador program in my recent article, here.
Utilize your assets.
If you’re a college, talk to your students. If you’re a company, talk to your student interns. Before you press the finalize button on any campaign, talk to your target audience. This ensures you are not executing on something that won’t resonate. If you don’t have interns or students to use as a resource, leverage services that put you in touch with college students. You can attend conferences where recruiters get together to talk about college students, such as the National Association of Colleges and Employers or URx.
You can also use A/B testing to check the effectiveness of your messaging. Double down on the one that proved more effective with the student demographic.
Say goodbye to stuffy, content-heavy marketing. Start with these three fixes to get on the fast track to an approachable message from your company or career center.
January 30, 2019 at 08:27AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs