In a world where most of the general public has been inundated by the vast amount of advertising on every realm of media, advertisers are struggling to connect with one of their prime markets – the college student. College students are a principal market for corporate marketers with their discretionary spending, having a $2 billion gain from 2009 to 2010. Along with their spending habits, these young adults are beginning to shop for themselves for the very first time, thus beginning to form brand loyalties that marketers strive to form in their target audiences. Herein lays the problem: since we are prone to ignoring most forms of traditional media marketing on television, radio, or newspapers, recent studies have shown that college students are no more likely to open an Internet ad than the rest of the population.
Introducing corporate marketing’s new superhero: the student brand ambassador. Large corporations are starting to tap campus leaders with a wide sphere of social influence, not to mention the people skills to go along with marketing the brand to a variety of students across their campuses. They also paper bulletin boards, chalk sidewalks, and have constant Facebook or Twitter updates promoting their brand. “The student ambassador tactic embraces all the elements that corporations find [have the] most effect,” states Matt Briton, managing partner of Mr. Youth, a firm that specializes in college marketing, “It’s peer-to-peer, it’s word of mouth, it’s flexible and it breaks through the clutter of the media.” As a market that generally tends to distrust corporate messages, having a peer spin the praises of a certain brand can certainly turn more heads than an ad placed in the correct time slot on MTV. Marketers are finally beginning to realize something WE all already knew, the best way to sell students something is for other students to be talking about it.
– Jessica Kingman, Alaethea Hensley, & Lauren Phelps