Why Advertise to College Students
College students and Gen Z are the key demographics for brands to market to in order to establish long-term brand relevance.
Unlike other demographics, college students are the social media savvy, leaders of the future. Due to their age, they are the most in touch w/ media, and technology, and the most likely to grow with a brand over time.
However, the main reason why college students are so important is their spending power. College students have substantial disposable income, making them a pivotal demographic for businesses to engage with effectively. As noted in articles like “Why the College Market is Important” by Refuel Agency and “Why Market to College Students” by Business.com, college students collectively contribute an estimated $523 billion to the economy annually.
Other key traits that make college students such an important market include
- Marketing to college students is cost-effective because they respond more favorably to grassroots messaging than to flashy ads.
- Most college students are from middle-class or higher families and will likely have more disposable income.
- Brands that reach college students early have a competitive advantage over brands that wait until after graduation. College students 17-24 are taking a significant first step into the adult world and are developing their independence. They haven’t formed many strong brand loyalties yet and are still impressionable and open-minded. This gives brands 4-5 years to develop a strong relationship with college students and in return, gain lifelong customers.
- Gen Z is estimated to make up 30% of the U.S. workforce by 2030, so brands that gain their trust and loyalty now will have the upper hand. [Pew Research]
Due to the high disposable income college students have, they are able to spend money in a variety of different ways that others cannot. As reported by OppU, college students who are financially supported by their parents in college, spend their money in the following ways:
How to Reach College Students With Ambassador Marketing
For all the reasons listed above, brands should include College students as a key audience to market to.
One of the most cost-effective and successful ways for brands to market to college students is by creating a college brand ambassador program. Brand ambassador marketing is so powerful because it allows brands to build brand community and cultivate loyalty amongst their top fans and ambassadors while activating them to drive sales on their behalf.
As shown in “Why Brand Ambassadors Should Be Part of Your Marketing Strategy” by Ad Age, activating other college students as influencers and ambassadors is powerful because college students value trust and authenticity most in brands.
As researched by McKinsey:
- 82% trust their friends and family about brands and product advice, while only
- 52% believe influencers on social media [mckinsey.com]
The Role of College Ambassadors
College ambassadors hold a unique space in the creator economy because they collaborate with a company on a long-term basis in a multitude of ways. Unlike traditional macro-influencers who typically are utilized in one-off posts, college ambassadors create content, post reviews, and participate in field marketing initiatives on an ongoing basis. Therefore, college ambassadors reach new audiences in a variety of different mediums instead of just one like a traditional macro-influencer.
College ambassadors are also unique because they’re cost-effective. Typically, macro-influencers with/ large followings cost upwards of thousands of dollars for a single post. Whereas, college ambassadors can bring brands to life via a variety of digital and field marketing initiatives in exchange for money, product, etc.
However, the ultimate benefit of activating brand ambassadors is that they help establish trustworthy, authentic relationships between brands and their target consumers. As brands continue to scale their ambassador program their reach grows exponentially.
College ambassadors are particularly helpful due to their high conversion rate. As noted by Referral Rock, college ambassadors play a crucial role in referral marketing, where peer recommendations hold significant sway. Referral marketing can boost conversion rates by a remarkable 5-25%, making it a powerful tool for brands seeking to connect with college students.
Top College Ambassador Programs
GoPuff, a food delivery app, started working with college ambassadors as a strategic growth marketing initiative. Back when they started working with SocialLadder, GoPuff was a start-up that needed a cost-effective way to enter new markets. As a result, they implemented a college brand ambassador strategy to do hyperlocal marketing and forge a content factory.
By activating brand ambassadors nationwide they were able to reach their target demographic where they live, study, and socialize – on college campuses. By enlisting college ambassadors, GoPuff tapped into the unique insights and connections these students have within their communities. This strategy not only increases brand visibility but also allows GoPuff to provide tailored services and promotions that resonate with college students, making it a win-win collaboration.
Red Bull employs college ambassadors to promote its brand in a variety of engaging ways. These ambassadors are strategically positioned to organize and execute high-energy events, sponsorships, and activations on campuses, aligning perfectly with Red Bull’s energetic brand image. They host events like extreme sports competitions, music festivals, and exclusive parties, creating a buzz that naturally draws in college students. By providing free Red Bull samples and exclusive access to exciting experiences, Red Bull generates a sense of community and excitement around their brand, ultimately boosting product awareness and loyalty among college students. These college ambassadors serve as the living embodiment of the brand’s “gives you wings” philosophy, making it a powerful marketing strategy for Red Bull.
SocialLadder partner, Bubble Skincare has found a winning formula by enlisting college ambassadors to extend its brand reach on college campuses, as outlined in the Glossy article, “How Bubble Aims to Conquer College Campuses.” By partnering with college students who possess a profound understanding of campus dynamics, Bubble Skincare creates a genuine connection with their target audience.
These ambassadors go beyond traditional marketing; they organize engaging events, produce captivating content, and share firsthand experiences with Bubble products. This approach enhances brand visibility and cultivates trust and authenticity among college students, a critical demographic for skincare products. Bubble Skincare’s strategic use of college ambassadors is a cornerstone of their plan to make a significant impact within the college market.
Kendra Scott has leveraged their organic college following through their Gems Campus Ambassador Program. Via this program, college ambassadors are activated to bolster brand awareness on social media and cultivate a sense of community on their college campuses. In their well-crafted college ambassador program, students become enthusiastic brand advocates, leveraging their peer connections and social media presence to amplify Kendra Scott’s reach. These ambassadors authentically endorse the brand through engaging content, reviews, and event promotions, establishing trust and relatability among their peers.
Beyond amplifying brand visibility, Kendra Scott ambassadors also help foster a stronger brand community and maintain a pulse on each of Kendra Scott’s hyperlocal markets. Ambassadors create social media content, host in-store events, and work on campus philanthropic partnerships to drive retail and online sales. This approach aligns Kendra Scott with the values and lifestyles of its target audience, making it a standout example of a brand using college ambassadors to build brand awareness and a passionate community.
Conclusion: The Vital Role of College Ambassadors in Modern Brand Marketing
In conclusion, college students and Gen Z represent a pivotal demographic for brands seeking long-term relevance. Their technological fluency, spending power, and openness to brand engagement make them an ideal audience. Leveraging college brand ambassadors emerges as a cost-effective and influential strategy to tap into this market. These ambassadors, unlike traditional influencers, offer ongoing engagement and reach across various platforms, fostering trust and authenticity that resonate with college students