Marketing Strategies That Connect with the Emerging Generations of Consumers

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Every year at the close of the summer vacation season, millions of students are preparing to head off to a new academic year at colleges all across the country. Whether college bound or back to high school, total combined shopping expenditures for 2019 is expected to top $80.7 billion. While much of the spending will be handled by the students’ parents, most of the purchasing decisions will revolve around the up and coming generation.

Marketing products and services to the iGen/Gen Z generation has proven to be far more complicated than expected. Many finely-tuned, well-oiled traditional marketing machines can lament past, failed attempts to connect with the newest generations of consumers. Born at the dawn of disruptive digital technologies, the Millennials and Gen Z’ers have tested the best of traditional marketing professionals and have many of them receiving a failing grade. One accepted theorem has absolutely been proven: Traditional marketing strategies and tactics are no longer effective with this digitally savvy market segment.

A Bowling Green State University survey found that 85% of students surveyed check their emails every day and more specially, 58% of Gen Z’ers check their email account multiple times a day. A 2017 study from the University of Buffalo found that college students use their phones for five to nine hours a day, 20% (to the frustration of lecturing professors) while they’re in the classroom. No surprise that marketers looking to make a meaningful connection with the age 18 to 29 segment will spend $27 billion on social media in the coming year. Total social media spending is predicted to reach $37 billion by 2020.  Ben Varquez, managing director of Youth Marketing Connection says, “In general we find, there’s sort of a trend in high school students, college students of trusting their peers over other sources. Social media helps students create their own social groups and develop their own insights, to essentially have their own digital orientation. Social media has changed the game and many colleges are still trying to figure out how they can be part of that conversation.”

Several colleges and major universities are forming student ambassador programs where students can volunteer to become brand influencers on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. At the University of Delaware, Digital Marketing Manager Sarah Goldfarb explains how the school’s approach can impact student engagement. “We realized students could offer something that our regular brand channel might not be able to. They had a perspective, teens could really appreciate and they could offer them something they couldn’t get anywhere else – a chance to look into their everyday lives as college students.”

There is no one, best way or best message that will magically help brands consummate a meaningful marketer/student relationship but a few basic fundamentals will enhance the viability of a campaign: Be specific when identifying the target consumer. Define them by age, personal interest, geographic location and study discipline. Generally, the more defined the more likely the message will resonate. Get the timing right. The most advantageous time may not be the 20% of time that students are in class when they are supposed to be focused on the instructor’s message. Be affordable. Most students lack large amounts of disposable income. Four letter words like; free, gift and less will grab their attention. Well-designed incentives can often generate increased student engagement and brand loyalty now and into the future. Utilize all the appropriate social media channels available and strive to develop a physical or virtual on-campus presence. It will build familiarity with a brand and create student influencers that will personalize a marketer’s consumer relationship.

For more on how Junction Creative Solutions can help you channel a responsive message to the student generation, call 678-686-1125 today.

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