Four ways brands can engage with students over the next four months

Four ways brands can engage with students over the next four months

Now A Level and GCSE results have been announced, students are counting down to their new academic year beginning. 

For brands, it’s a crucial time to communicate with the student demographic. After all, these are consumers who can form affiliations with brands that last a lifetime. Can we introduce the spending power – i.e. in the UK alone, students contribute £70 billion to the UK economy.

This tech-savvy audience isn’t always easy to reach but, while they are a group that can be turned off by overt marketing, there are a number of ways brands can best engage with them, on terms that students want. 

Here are four ways we’re increasingly seeing have great effectiveness when trying to communicate with students:

Making offers that are (really) relevant to them

Brands need to ensure they understand the audience. Not just their behaviour but what they think and feel, and how they react to certain events. The average debt owed by university graduates in England is £44,000 and this puts a massive strain on students. 65% of them say their diet suffers from their poor financial situation and 56% say their grades suffer.

Barclays, for example, recently announced a new scheme to offer students access to a library of e-books, where they can pick up to three free course e-textbooks – in light of research finding that money is the number one concern for Gen Z students, over and above exam stress. A brand that can use such insights to offer a genuine purpose, to make university life that little bit easier, is going to be one that’s valued by students.

Embracing communities outside of the traditional giants

Revisit the original engagement idea and ask if your brand is really reaching the student community via the traditional social media platforms.  

With no set verification, it is proving difficult to identify and engage with students across the traditional social media platforms. Coupled with trends such as Gen Z moving away from Facebook, this is leading to brands like Sephora Beauty, Lego, Starbucks and Xbox investing in their own nuanced brand communities with tremendous success. 

Looking specifically at the student market, Campus Society includes student verification as part of the sign-up process and has prioritised a community whereby students are involved in product development, sharing ideas and what’s happening on campus, and engaging with tailored content and offers.

Living for the moment

Students have told us that they want more opportunities to meet employers, and that they are happy for companies to reach them via social media. University is also a key time for people to increase their networks, a key step to building success in future. 

Brands should look to inspire students to embrace the wider opportunities available to them while studying. That doesn’t just mean focussing on the academic side of the university experience but on the social one too, whether that’s promoting cheap meal hacks or encouraging specific interest groups where like-minded students can come together.

There is an abundance of opportunity for brands to communicate and engage in a meaningful way, regardless of geography, that can help build lifetime affinity. 

Make it authentic – purpose is key

They know the difference between genuine and spin and they aren’t the greatest fans of large corporations so will happily blow the whistle on you and boycott brands seen as unethical - as a few have already discovered.

When ranking the priorities students believe brands should have, inspiring content was key for a third of respondents (33%). Yet nearly one in five (17%) say they admire brands for championing diversity and inclusion, while 13% said they must have a good environmental footprint, and 13% said they should have a positive impact on society.

University is often seen as a stepping stone to achieving bigger ambitions. The brands that align to this, and help students along the way, are in strong position to form a lasting relationship.