how to market to college students

 Check out your ad-making mistakes and make your ad much more effective with these simple hints…

how to market to college students

College students spend more than 200 billion a year, making them a huge market. But before you spend any money marketing to this illusive group, it’s critical that you know what makes them tick and how to push their buttons and infiltrate their inner circle. Here’s some insight into what’s NOT working and  how you can begin reinventing your brand and ad campaign in order to reach this growing, powerful, and profitable demographic.



1.  The design of the ad didn’t drive students to your website and/or social  networks (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.) 


Helpful hint: Using print to drive students to your social networks allows you to communicate with college students FREQUENTLY and FOR ZERO COST.


2.    The ad didn’t seem Real.

Hint: Think about these four questions your audience will be asking themselves, and answer them to sound and be real: 


  • What are you trying to sell me?
  •  How much will it cost?
  •  What’s in it for me?
  •  Why should I believe you?


3.  It wasn’t Simple and Cool. (The real golden rule!)


Hint: Remember this easy formula: Clean + Simple = Cool. BAM!


4.  The headline didn’t catch their interest and hold their attention. 

Hint: The truth is that students often won’t read past the headline.  Put the benefits up front and keep them coming to attract–and keep–their interests.  Remember this old-school rule by David Ogilvy that still applies now: “If your headline doesn’t promise a benefit, you are wasting 80% of your money.”


5. The ad didn’t grab their attention in the requisite “two seconds.” 

Hint: Get to the point ASAP! Students’ first question is always a simple “What’s in it for me?”  Fire your biggest gun first and fast so they realize the benefits you’re offering.

These 3 techniques will help make your ad a “two-second hooker”….


The Word Hook:
The word hook is a short, easily repeatable (and oft repeated) word or slogan that is used to describe your business and is used consistently from ad to ad.

Check out some awesome examples–

Nike: Just do it

Apple: Think Different

Budweiser: The King of Beers

Visa: It’s everywhere you want to be

McDonald’s: I’m lovin’ it


The Character Hook: 
In the character hook, there’s a hero that puts a face to your business and is easily identified as representing the brand.

Here are some memorable advertising characters you’re sure to recognize–


Geico: Gecko

McDonald’s: Ronald McDonald

Progressive Auto Insurance: Flo

Energizer Batteries: Energizer Bunny


Repeatable Hook: 
A common theme that runs throughout the ad campaign and is recognizable and memorable will make students feel like they have the inside track. With an ad campaign–rather than a simple individual ad–students are quickly familiarized with your business and feel connected to your brand. To help students know, like, and trust your business faster, practice consistency with the following aspects of your ad campaign and brand:







6. Photos didn’t match the message.


Hint: If there is a disconnect between your images and message, students won’t get what you’re talking about and won’t bother to read the copy.


7. The ad lacked a call to action or sense of urgency–and students didn’t know what to do.


Hint: Check out these five examples of calls to action that create a sense of urgency, motivating students to act now…

  •  Get this FREE on our website today.  There are only 25 left!
  •  Money Back Guarantee. No Questions Asked.
  •  Get It Now!
  •  Order Now and Receive a Free _______!
  •  Call Today!


8. There was no way for students to try before buying.


Hint: Provide students with exclusive info, pictures, and videos; give them sneak peeks at new products; hook them up with samples! It’s all about getting them free stuff that they’ll talk about and often share with their friends. This will not only create enthusiastic customers, but it will spread the buzz about your product or service.

Check out these promo ideas that will get students excited about trying your product–

  • Contests, and/or sweepstakes
  • Free premiums
  • Free samples
  • Discount coupons
  • Loss-leader premiums
  • Bundled products or services
  • Rebates
  • Credit terms and easy payments
  • 30 day no questions asked return policy
  • Promise to beat any advertised price in the market
  • Guarantee quality, freshness, turn-around time

9. Your ad didn’t answer the question that all college students inevitably ask: “What’s in it for me?” (In other words: WIIFM?)


Hint: Doing something as simple as including the word YOU in the headline will increase your response.


10. Your ad didn’t push the students’ buttons.


Hint: It’s likely that your ad was talking at them instead of with them. It’s important to understand college students and what makes them tick; a good way to do this is by spending time in their environment(And one way to infiltrate their circles is by doing it digitally instead of physically; think presences on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, etc.


11. After making your ad, you assumed it would be a one-hit wonder.


Hint:  Two of the most important things in advertising are frequency and visibility.  A general rule of thumb is that it will take least three months of continual advertising to get people to actually act on what they’re seeing.


12. Your ad actually DID work, but you had poor tracking and you didn’t know. In other words: You had ’em, but you lost ’em.


Hint: Put some kind of measureables in place to make sure you capture the true value of the ad and know what’s working and when.




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