There isn’t a cloud in the sky and the weather is gorgeous, well in between a few scattered showers! Good news for most us, but not for the thousands of students that will be sweating it out in exam halls over the coming weeks, hoping to do well enough to get to college in September. As new entrants into the desirable 18-30 demographic, this group of consumers still hasn’t formed unbreakable brand loyalties and marketers the world over are carefully fine-tuning their strategies to try and capture the college student’s fleeting attention in September. Read our blog on The most popular Sales Promotion Incentives

This is a critical time for brands to start building brand loyalty with students. If they can successfully connect with a student at this point, the chances are that they will continue to connect with them as they graduate, start careers, begin families and progress toward retirement. The lifetime value of the student is too big a prize to get wrong.

We all know that it’s about reaching students where they are, which is mostly on their phones or laptops or on the college campus. Getting freebies is a key way to get students to remember a brand. According to the Freshers Marketing Report 2013 by The Bean Group “In an open-ended question, we collected the reasons that students remembered brands. In the case of Domino’s, it was almost entirely because they received a free slice of pizza. Nando’s engaged students with their use of a large Wheel of Fortune which delivered guaranteed prizes. Pizza Hut also won student interest with the lure of free pizza, while Lucozade coincidentally used the exact competition theme as Nando’s: a spinning wheel.”

The research found that while 66% don’t like to be handed flyers, 61% of students admit “I still like to hold, feel and take away printed things”, while 74% notice posters around campus.

Jenny Elworthy, Head of Marketing at Hearst Magazines UK, said: “Freshers is one of the most important events in the student calendar. It’s a time when students are eager to try new things and start to form the habits of the next three or so years, and even their lives. They can be receptive to marketing because of this but of course there is a lot of clutter, so you have to give them something they’ll really value and to cut through is incredibly hard.”

So how do you market to the college crowd and grab their attention? Here are three of our favourite examples of brands who nailed it.

Coca-Cola – ‘Friendly Twist’

Coca-Cola’s ‘Friendly Twist’ campaign targeted college students by using their product to help freshers create friendships during that daunting first week in college. While the initial days of class are mainly filled with excitement, making new friends can be a bit intimidating. That’s why Coca-Cola Colombia came up with a unique way to help students shake the first-year jitters and bond with their fellow freshmen.

They came up with the ‘Friendly Twist’ bottle, which can only be opened with the help of another person. Coke tested the bottles, fitted with specially designed, interlocking caps that can only be twisted open by a matching top, on the first day of classes at a university in Colombia. After reaching into a cooler and pulling out what appeared to be a regular bottle of Coca-Cola, the students realized they needed to first make a new friend before enjoying the ice-cold beverage.

This is a thoroughly innovative campaign that augments the brands promise of happiness and sharing. The social impact of the ad was the real win. With over 10 million YouTube views, countless Facebook shares and positive responses on Twitter using the hashtag #FriendlyTwist, Coca-Cola certainly found a way of connecting that cannot be forgotten.

Best Buy – ‘How to College’

Last year, Best Buy launched a new back-to-school campaign that featured comedian Adam Devine in a series of educational and humorous TV, digital and social spots.

Each element highlights a common scenario students face and shows how to navigate awkward and difficult college tasks.

In addition to these videos, the campaign gave college students the opportunity to download and use funny ‘Adamojis’ in texts and on social media. All this activity led the student to great deals on all of their back-to-school necessities when they registered at on everything from Mac Books, laptops and computers to dorm essentials like compact refrigerators, microwaves and TVs. The campaign strengthened Best Buy’s strategy of attracting millennials in those crucial early stages by tapping into that influencer mentality in casting Adam Device who made their message relevant to students.

Target – ‘Bullseye University Live’

Year on year, no retailer has embraced experiential marketing to students like Target. Live experiences, grassroots marketing and guerrilla marketing that’s amplified online are key to Target’s strategy of imprinting those lifetime shopping preferences in the mind of the consumer from an early stage. They have the additional challenge of changing the mindset of students of Target as ‘a place that Mom shops’. Their Bullseye University Live campaign did just that. It started with a multi-story dormitory experience being set up on the UCLA campus in July. Each room was carefully decked out with Target products. They filled the dorm with five of YouTube’s most popular personalities who became roommates for four days. Their antics were streamed 24 hours a day on All products were hyperlinked and by scrolling over, online viewers could click the link to purchase.

The lounge at the bottom level was taken by a different brand every day – Ben & Jerry’s, Zip Car, Champion Beats by Dr. Dre with socially fuelled content that kept students coming back for more. This was followed by similar pop-ups on 5 campuses during ‘move-in week’. If students needed last-minute items, Target had shuttle buses running students to and from the nearest Target store. The combination of the experiential on-campus activity integrated cleverly with the digital experience helped Target to take a hefty chunk of back-to-college purchases but also to create that brand advocacy which has long-lasting value.

Despite all the pitfalls and obstacles of selling to college students, the benefits of building brand loyalty with students can be substantial. It’s a challenging but fun market and as these examples show, clearly taking some very calculated risks can work to your favour. Invest some time into thinking about the ways students could interact with you, even if it seems a little nutty. If it’s aligned with what you do and executed thoughtfully, students will be talking in the best way possible!

Posted in Sales Promotions