How Should You Engage Students with Your Brand: Free Samples, Guerrilla Marketing, or Friends’ Referrals?
The college student demographic is a tough shell to crack. How do you get them interested in new brands? What makes them tick? Students aren’t the clueless, narrow-minded, indifferent audience they’re often portrayed to be. Say what you will about Generation Y, but they definitely know what they like and what they hate!
I asked eight students the following question and provided them with three answer options:
“What would most attract your attention to a new brand or product…and why?”
1) Free samples
2) Guerrilla marketing
3) A friend’s referral
Do you have any guesses as to which option received the most responses? I’ll tell you which one it WASN’T: guerrilla marketing. Among the eight college students I surveyed, ZERO selected guerrilla marketing and one of them made it clear that he found the advertising tactic rather annoying. “I don’t want advertisements shoved down my throat when I’m minding my own business,” he said. “If I’m going to try a new product, I’ll do it because it’s something I might actually use. Or I’d try it if a buddy recommended it to me.”
That student’s response leads me to the answer you may have already figured out. Friends’ referrals are the most effective means if you’re targeting college students. Several students double-dipped and selected both free samples AND friends’ referrals, but the five who did so also specified that referrals were far more likely to get their attention about a new brand.
So how do you get a college student interested in what you’re selling and encourage him or her to spread the word to friends? Aside from giving away free product samples like they’re going out of style, you may also want to try cutting the hype and getting straight to the benefits of your product or service. It’s all about TRUST, and students are smart enough to know whether or not your ads are intriguing or just a load of bull.
You could also make a connection between your product and college students – how and why will it help them? As the previously-mentioned college student pointed out, he would try a new product if it was something he might actually use. So what good are aggressive marketing techniques if consumers don’t need or want what you have to offer? Highlight the benefits of your brand instead of blowing a bunch of hot air at your audience!
I’m no longer a college student, but I can tell you that I have no qualms about broadcasting a new brand to others. When I find a product I like, I tend to stick with it indefinitely and tell my friends to check it out. And you know what? My enthusiasm could start an invaluable chain reaction. It’s true that word-of-mouth advertising is tricky nowadays, but it’s unstoppable if you get over that initial hump and pitch your products with honesty and integrity. And that seems to be what college students are looking for in advertisements!
What gets YOU to try a new brand (whether you’re a student or not)?