Marketers Get Creative Targeting Hard-To-Reach College Students

According to USA TODAY, it may have seemed like just another freshman move-in day at West Virginia University. But for American Eagle Outfitters, it was D-Day. The company placed updates on Facebook that promoted free car-to-dorm room help with heavy stuff on move-in day – not to mention free flip-flops.

College students are wary of old-school marketing,” says Paul Himmelfarb, managing director at Youth Marketing Connection, which specializes in linking marketers with the college crowd. “You have to take a brand and incorporate it into the college lifestyle by peer-to-peer marketing.”

Savvy college marketers have learned that they can no longer reach students by simply putting up posters, handing out samples and hanging ads from dorm room door handles.

Why reaching students on campus is fundamental for marketers:

– Students have money to spend, often courtesy of Mom and Pop. Discretionary spending by the nation’s 19 million full- and part-time college students will reach $76 billion this year – up $2 billion from last year – projects Alloy Media + Marketing.

– Students will have more dough in the future.

– Students, particularly freshmen in their first extended time away from home, are developing brand affinities that can last.

But they’re very clear about how they want to be reached by marketers. When college students were asked in 2009 how they want to get information on goods and services, 46% said the Internet, reports research specialist Student Monitor. That’s up from 26% in 2000.

Where they’re not interested in getting information: TV or magazines. While 59% looked to TV ads in 2000, that number shrank to 44% last year. And while 42% depended on magazine ads for information in 2004, that fell to 25% last year.

Photo by USA TODAY.

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