Marketing to Millennials: Takes One to Know One

Marketing to the 18-25 age bracket, often called the Millennials or Gen-Y, can be a tricky task. Money can often be a touchy subject for broke college kids who live on Ramen noodles when they’ve used up the monthly balance in their campus meal plans. On the other hand, for the first time in their lives, they have free use of a debit card. Regardless, if a product or a service is represented in just the right manner, this age group definitely has the potential to bite the bait.

When trying to reach university and graduate students, the most effective marketing strategy is to go through the university itself. If the university deems something good enough to sell or worthy enough to represent, then the average student would likely find it automatically credible. Coming from someone who just graduated from college, I know from recent experience that students tend to put a lot of trust in their schools and have faith in the legitimacy of organizations, products and services that are presented on school grounds. This is true whether they are approached by a company that’s recruiting for entry-level positions, a product that will make their lives a little easier or a charity that’s seeking donations.Many marketing approaches can be used successfully, such as ads around the dorms and throughout campus, an informational stand in the school union or an email offer through the university’s email system. One of these approaches will be likely to catch students’ eyes and at the very least, allow them to consider the offer.

One campaign that sticks out in my mind is Victoria’s Secret’s PINK campaign at my school, Binghamton University. Victoria’s Secret launched a new clothing collection, part of their PINK line, geared towards teenagers and young 20s.  The new collection was tailor-made for each school and included jerseys, sweatshirts, sweatpants and pajamas. However, in order for a school to be selected to have this new line of university clothing, the school would have to have more student votes to add the collection than other schools. Throughout the contest, there was an overload of school-based emails urging students to vote, as well as flyers around the student union and even PINK student representatives tracking down other students to vote to have the clothing line introduced at Binghamton. This school-wide campaign was also a way to teach students about promotion, marketing and public relations through a fun and rewarding learning style. The campaign was highly successful for Victoria’s Secret, since the campaign was ever-present for nearly a month, and students felt good in the end because Binghamton actually was chosen to be a part of the clothing line.

People in the 18-25 age bracket tend to be “early adapters” who are always up on the latest technology and are knowledgeable about current trends. They like to be among the first to buy or try a product. That’s why creating a buzz via social media about something new and innovative can be worthwhile.

Student representatives are also effective. If students see one of their peers endorsing something, they are more likely to be attracted to it rather than hearing a pitch from someone they perceive to be “an old man in a suit.”

Once an idea catches on, it spreads like wildfire. Marketers who try to think like students are more likely to be successful in making this happen.

Jenna Saper

Summer Intern, Bridge Global Strategies

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