Advertising to Students – The Complete Guide

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Advertising to students is a dynamic and rewarding endeavour, given the unique characteristics and interests of this demographic. 

Students are not just learners; they are trendsetters and early adopters, making them a crucial audience for many brands. 

In this guide, we will explore the most effective strategies for reaching and engaging with students in 2024. 

From understanding their diverse backgrounds to leveraging the latest digital tools, this comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge and tactics needed to create impactful marketing campaigns.

Understanding the Student Demographic

Diversity and Characteristics

Students today come from a variety of backgrounds, cultures, and interests. They’re tech-savvy, socially conscious, and highly engaged with digital media. 

Students are typically considered 18-21 and this often informs the type of messaging, imagery and narratives that are used to target them.

From 2021-2022, mature students accounted for 63% of the student population, including 48% of undergraduate students.

Gen-Z are often considered the main student demographic however mature students at this time would be classed as Millennials.

 In the case of Millennials, a staggering 89% of individuals trust recommendations from friends and family more than claims by a specific brand. 

This is partly due to the fact that Millennials typically prioritise experiences over material goods and wealth, whilst it also hints at a growing cynicism when it comes to brands.

Millennials are also investing heavily in ad-blocking software across their devices.

In the UK, this trend is most prevalent amongst consumers aged between 18 and 24, with 34% of this demographic choosing to prevent online advertisements from appearing on their screens.

Understanding these characteristics is vital for tailoring your marketing efforts to resonate with them.

Ad Blocker

Importance of Market Segmentation

Market segmentation allows you to target specific groups within the student population. 

By segmenting based on factors such as age, location, field of study, and interests, you can create more personalised and effective marketing messages. 

This approach ensures that your campaigns are relevant and engaging to each subgroup.

The Best Marketing Strategies for Students

Billboard Advertising

Billboard advertising is a powerful tool for reaching students, particularly in high-traffic areas around campuses. 

Billboards offer a constant, visible presence that reinforces brand messages and can significantly boost brand recall. 

In the UK, OOH ad spend for 2023 was £1.6 billion and has steadily risen since 2020 when covid hit and saw a huge drop in OOH ad spending.

OOH advertising also enhances trust in online and social media channels.

A study by Rapport found that brands allocating 15% or more of their marketing budget to OOH saw increased social media engagement. Of these brands, 48% used OOH to drive brand awareness, and 24% used it to boost sales conversions.

When it comes to trust and cynicism, for example, a recent study by Nielsen revealed that more than 56% of all consumers inherently trust OOH as an advertising channel.

Strategic Billboard Placement

The key to successful billboard advertising is strategic placement.

Identify locations with heavy student traffic, such as near universities, student accommodation, and popular hangout spots. 

Placing billboards in these areas ensures maximum exposure to your target audience.

Designing Engaging Billboards

A well-designed billboard grabs attention and communicates your message quickly. 

Use bright, vibrant colours, clear fonts, and concise messaging. Including a call to action, such as a website link or social media handle, encourages students to engage further with your brand.

Be bold in your approach to stand out from the landscape and ensure your message is unmissable and grabs attention.

Case Studies and Success Stories

Case studies can highlight the effectiveness of billboard advertising. 

For example, a billboard campaign for a student discount app placed near several university campuses could track increased app downloads and user engagement. 

Share data and testimonials to demonstrate the impact of your billboard campaigns.

Leveraging Technology

Incorporate technology to enhance your billboard advertising. 

Digital billboards can display dynamic content and be updated in real-time to reflect current promotions or events.

Interactive elements, such as QR codes, can drive further engagement by directing students to your online platforms.

Billboard advertising, when executed effectively, can be one of the most impactful ways to connect with students.

Its visibility and ability to reinforce brand messages make it a valuable component of any student marketing strategy.

Social Media Marketing

Platforms: Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube

Social media platforms are where students spend a significant amount of their time.

Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat are particularly popular for their visual and interactive content.

Instagram had 33.1 million users, equating to 48.8% of the UK population, while TikTok had 22.71 million users aged 18 and above​.

According to a report by DataReportal, YouTube had 56.2 million users in the UK in early 2024, reaching 82.8% of the total population.

Content Strategies: Memes, Giveaways, Educational Content

Creating content that resonates with students is crucial. 

Memes and giveaways can drive engagement and foster a sense of community, while remaining relevant with the latest online trends. Educational content can establish your brand as a knowledgeable and trustworthy source which is beneficial for brand trust and creating authority on a topic

Competitions and giveaways are very popular with students who are happy to promote a brand, give a follow or a like on a post in order to win a competition. 

Social Media

Offering free samples online is a great way to reach students who are cost-savvy. Around 44% of Millennials are willing to promote products and services through social media in exchange for rewards.

Case Studies and Statistics

Incorporate success stories and data to highlight the effectiveness of your campaigns. 

For instance, YouTube remains the most frequented online platform among UK users, indicating a strong preference for video content​.

Demonstrating proven results can build credibility and encourage other students to engage with your brand.

Content Marketing

Blog Posts, Articles, and Student-Focused Content

Publishing relevant and informative content on your website can attract students through search engines. 

Topics that address their interests and concerns, such as study tips, career advice, and lifestyle content, can draw consistent traffic to your site.

Use of Keywords and SEO Best Practices

Optimising your content with the right keywords ensures that it ranks higher in search engine results. 

Use SEO best practices, such as meta descriptions, internal linking, and mobile optimisation, to improve your website’s visibility.

Measuring Success Through Analytics

Utilise analytics tools to track the performance of your content. 

Metrics such as page views, time on site, and conversion rates can provide insights into what resonates with your audience and how you can improve your strategies.

Email Marketing

Crafting Engaging Newsletters

Email remains a powerful tool for reaching students. 

Crafting engaging and informative newsletters can keep your audience informed and interested in your brand. 

Personalise your emails to address the specific needs and preferences of different student segments.

Building Effective Email Funnels

Develop email funnels that guide students from awareness to conversion.

Start with introductory emails and gradually provide more detailed content and offers, leading them towards making a purchase or engaging further with your brand.

Personalisation and Automation

Personalisation can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your email campaigns. 

Use automation tools to segment your audience and send targeted messages based on their behaviour and preferences. 

This approach ensures that each student receives content that is relevant to them.

Influencer Marketing

Finding and Vetting Relevant Influencers

Influencers play a significant role in student marketing. 

Finding influencers who genuinely resonate with your target audience is crucial. 

Look for individuals who share the same values and interests as your brand and have a substantial following among students.

Strategies for Collaboration and Engagement

Collaborating with influencers involves more than just sponsored posts. 

Work with them to create authentic content that integrates your brand naturally. 

This could include product reviews, unboxing videos, or collaborative giveaways.

Face-to-Face and Experiential Marketing

Importance of In-Person Interactions

In-person interactions are invaluable in building genuine connections with students. 

They offer a tangible and personal experience that digital campaigns often cannot match.

Engaging directly with students at events allows brands to create lasting impressions.

Organising and Participating in Events

Events such as Freshers’ Week, career fairs, and campus festivals are prime opportunities to engage with students. 

Organise interactive booths, workshops, or sponsored events that align with your brand’s message. 

Participation in these events can significantly boost your brand’s visibility and credibility among students.

Creating Memorable Brand Experiences

Experiential marketing involves creating unique and memorable experiences that resonate with students. 

This could include interactive installations, live demonstrations, or branded merchandise giveaways. 

The goal is to create a positive association with your brand that students will remember and talk about.

Virtual Events and Their Significance Post-Pandemic

There has been a significantly accelerated shift towards virtual events. 

Hosting webinars, virtual workshops, or online competitions can reach a wider audience and provide valuable content to students

These events are cost-effective and can be recorded for future use across digital channels extending their impact​.

The Last Word

Reaching and engaging with students requires a multifaceted approach that leverages both digital and traditional marketing strategies. 

Understanding the diverse student demographic and tailoring your campaigns accordingly is crucial for success. 

Digital marketing through social media, SEO, and email can effectively capture students’ attention online, while influencer collaborations provide authentic endorsements. 

Face-to-face interactions and experiential marketing create memorable experiences, and strategic sponsorships build long-term brand loyalty. 

Finally, billboard advertising offers high visibility and reinforces your brand message in key student locations. 

By integrating these strategies, you can effectively connect with the student market and drive impactful results for your brand.

Book your billboard today.
Book your billboard today.

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