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How marketers should best engage with students

How marketers should best engage with students

By James Eder, Commercial Director,

Why students are a valuable consumer group for brands and how to best engage them with your marketing strategy.

There are a number of terms that come to mind when thinking about students: lazy, like a drink, trendy, wake up at 2 in the afternoon, tech-savvy, flick between brands and hard to engage with.

Regardless of the preconceptions, students represent a large and diverse segment in society and are a consumer group that brands cannot afford to ignore. There are just under 2.4m UK students in higher education - including part-timers and postgraduates - with an annual spending power of over £20 billion.

Get them while they’re young

Living away from home, students are in control and making key independent purchasing decisions for the first time. They are actively choosing between FMCG and entertainment brands on a day-to-day basis and are looking to see which brands go the extra mile to win their custom. A survey in March 2010 found that 94% of respondents expect companies to provide special offers for students.
A brand that differentiates itself in the student market can win thousands of loyal customers and build a relationship that lasts a lifetime.

The student market is not just about generating immediate results - it is an opportunity to build loyal consumers who will choose your brand at university and stick with it for life. Students are tomorrow’s ABC1 consumers with graduates earning on average £160,000 more in lifetime earnings than non-graduates, according to a study by Universities UK.

Brands are likely to see a significant return on investment over the course of a lifetime relationship that started when consumers were students.

Promotions and deals that are relevant

Students are usually clear on what they want and they have fully-formed perceptions on different products, services, brands and outlets. However, students are savvy and will always seek out a good deal - they certainly engage with advertising and promotions that stand out and that are relevant to them.

Many day-to-day spending decisions are made on impulse, for example restaurants, cinemas, fast-food, pubs and bars and coffee chains.

These are outlet-based choices that are based on past brand experiences and and the group of people going (as these items are usually consumed communally). Promotions are therefore essential in order to give an incentive for students to choose a particular brand and provide a great brand experience that give them a reason to come back.

Brands must look online to engage students

Recent research from a student lifestyle report conducted by and YouGov SixthSense revealed that online promotions are the most effective way to communicate with students.

Three quarters of students spend at least 2-3 hours online each day, excluding time spent studying and 15% say that they spend over 5 hours online every day. It is important that brands implement marketing and advertising campaigns on the mediums that students are actually using.

When looking for sources of information on latest deals and products offered by companies, 86% of UK students turn to online vouchers. Campaigns centred around an offer are also likely to have a higher response rate.

Many students still engage with email marketing, with 57% getting information on deals from emails sent by voucher and offer websites and 38% sourcing deals from email newsletters sent directly from the companies themselves.

Students are also becoming more receptive to email marketing, with the knowledge that these are likely to include special offers and deals. 48% of UK students say that the number of emails they read from companies has gone up.

Do not restrict campaigns to term time

A common mistake often made by brands is that their campaigns stick rigidly to the academic term cycles. But students do not disappear outside of term time - they will meet up with their friends at home and share the brand choices they have made at university (e.g. restaurant chains). They will also probably have a bit more cash thanks to mum and dad!

Not just about generating immediate results

It is clear students have money to spend on fashion, leisure and entertainment and are willing to try new things. Students often lead the way, from using social media to adopting the latest technology and because they tend to live close together, news and opinions on products move rapidly.

Companies and brands must engage with students through the right marketing channels, using straightforward, clear and most importantly relevant messaging. By investing money and time building a relationship with students and by seizing the initiative in the student market, brands can gain new customers for life.

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