3 Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn from College Students and the Brands They Love

By | December 6, 2010

This is a guest post by Kate Willson. You will find contact details and links for Kate at the end of the article. I enjoyed reading this article and it gives small business owners much to consider. A fantastic guest post. Thank you Kate.

Although this Advertising Age article is three years old, one point proffered still rings true. The article quotes Tom Anderson of Anderson Analytics, who said:

“[College students] have huge impact on what their parents buy, and then they have their own money, more than any other generation before them, and of course they are the consumers of tomorrow… everyone wants to be younger, so we look to younger people. We think they’re happier than us and we want to be like them, resulting in a younger-targeted marketing message.”

As such, even if university students are not your targeted customers, it pays to market with them in mind. As someone who just recently graduated from college, I can say without hesitation that our demographic pays as much attention to what surrounds any given product as the product itself. In other words, students are drawn to a product’s culture. Creating this culture can help many small businesses in their marketing campaign. Here are a few qualities that college students seek in their products, and some examples of successful marketing through these qualities.

1. Interaction

Students want to be able to interact with the products they consume and the brands with which they associate. Substantive interaction can be as simple as setting up a Facebook page to something more elaborate, like creating a webpage with games, giveaways, and events. Whichever way you wish to interact with your customers, make sure that the interaction seeks to be meaningful, fun, and free of pretension. A great example of active company interaction is Jones Soda brand drinks.

2. Involvement

Many brands seek to actively involve their customers in the product. College students love “getting involved”, which explains why this marketing method is particularly appealing. Brands who have set up “ambassador” programs, like Maker’s Mark and Red Bull, understand that creating and cultivating a brand’s culture means involving customers in the process of production as well as consumption. For smaller businesses looking to take their consumer interaction one step further, try thinking of ways to involve your customers.

3. Higher purpose

One brand that is hugely popular with college students is Tom’s shoes. And one of the central aspects of Tom’s campaign is that it gives away a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair it sells. In an age in which consumers are becoming increasingly sensitive to their social and environmental impact, brand-conscious customers desire products and services that seek to better the world, not just run a business and make a profit.

Positioning your brand and making it further your product or service can be easy and extremely cost-effective thanks to the Internet. As long as you keep in mind that today’s youthful consumers seek more than traditional “customer service,” you’ll be well on your way to developing a creative campaign that fuels your business’s growth.

This guest post is contributed by Kate Willson, who writes on the topics of top online colleges.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katewillson2@gmail.com.