Barnes & Noble College Marketing recently published a report detailing its survey of 7,500 college students nationwide regarding their perceptions about advertising practices and their consumption patterns. The report draws a number of conclusions, and each of them has a potential marketing takeaway for businesses that sell to college students—or hope to.
TV Commercials Are Still Relevant
Businesses may be tempted to focus most of their marketing strategies on new media and social networking. If you're an emerging business or you're worried about being left behind the times, you might feel like the latest strategies are automatically the best. Interestingly, young consumers don't quite seem to agree. In fact, 42% of the students surveyed feel that television advertising is the most effective method of reaching consumers.
The pace of technological change is astonishing, but marketing isn't necessarily keeping pace. Although people consume media—particularly social media—more than ever, they still pay attention to advertising in its traditional forms.
The advertising business has a long and successful history advertising products and services through television, radio and print. Advertisers today can still learn from these same media and apply their lessons in different contexts. Yet another study suggests that Internet ads may work similarly to magazine ads. If that's true, then traditional advertising may have more to teach you than you realize.
Phones Aren't for Ads
Another major headline from the B&N study is that two-thirds of respondents to the survey say they never scan QR codes, suggesting this method of getting consumers to engage with a product or business may not be effective.
Arguably, this should come as no surprise; QR codes add another step between the consumer and the brand identity. They take up space that could be used by still-relevant traditional ads, and ask the individual to seek out the ad on their own. The study seems to suggest there are better ways of getting consumers to reach out to you.
Similarly, college students don't like receiving advertisements via text message. E-mail is widely preferable, and although 80% of students own smartphones, they tend to actually read their e-mail on computers. Keep that in mind when sending e-mail promotions.
A successful e-mail promotion should be tailored for web browsers instead of smartphones. That means promotional e-mails can include more information because they'll be displayed on a larger screen. In addition, the promotion can focus on linking to relevant web pages instead of a gotta-download-it-now app.
Social Media Marketing
Social media campaigns are effective in building brand identity as well as forming relationships with consumers in target demographics. For example, 65% of students surveyed say they engage with brands via some form of social networking on at least a weekly basis. One-third even do so three times a day or more. This should underscore what you probably already knew: social media can be a powerful tool when promoting your brand.
But this study also makes clear that you have to tread lightly. Even though young consumers use Facebook and other social media to connect with products and services, they're not eager to be targeted that way. In fact, more than half of survey respondents think Facebook is not a good place for brands to advertise.
Presumably, consumers feel manipulated if businesses seek them out directly through social media. But if their connection with your brand feels like their own choice, then you've secured not just a customer, but the possibility of a loyal, returning customer.
Building this consumer’s choice connection requires a commitment to using alternative strategies. Try to connect with other businesses or media personalities that your prospective customers already follow. Use traditional advertising to raise your visibility and let consumers seek you out. Invest in a white hat SEO company to drive more traffic to your site—and make sure your “like on Facebook” icon is prominently displayed.
If They Like You, They Really, Really Like You
Once they do choose to connect with you through social media, young consumers might engage with your brand regularly. That suggests the possibility of increasing brand loyalty—the holy grail of marketers everywhere—and other findings of the report reinforce that idea. Students are highly receptive to the role of brand ambassadors on college campuses, and 68% of those surveyed expressed interest in becoming one.
Tremendous opportunities exist for brands to secure lasting commitments from college-aged consumers. And once you've gained a significant number of likes and on-campus buzz, things can really take off from there. Word of mouth is still a major means of spreading a brand message, and because of texting, e-mail and social media, this spreads much faster in the information age.
Don’t believe it? Then consider that 59% of respondents to the B&N survey said that their friends are the biggest influence on purchasing decisions. If your marketing campaigns direct just a handful of people to connect with you through social media, there's a good chance that your popularity will take off as students look to each other, both online and off, in choosing where to spend their money.