As we know, product placement usually gets associates it with the entertainment industry; the obvious examples are seen in movies, on television, found in song lyrics, or simply connected with celebrities. In movies and television shows, it appears that the most effective uses of product placement are when the presence of the product doesn’t take away from the story. Although many brands have been using this strategy for years, other companies have started to play off of this model as they determine the new way to practice subtle product placement: college reps.
You might be wondering, what is a college rep? A college, or campus, representative, commonly known as a “college rep”, is a university student directly associated with a brand whose job is to promote that brand around their campus. Brands who use college reps, such as Apple, Playboy, Red Bull and clothing companies like COAST Apparel and Emma Graham Designs, all realize that their products appeal to the college market. And who better to reach out to the college market than a college student?
It might seem risky targeting college kids, but companies know that this market’s members aren’t as broke as they seem. They know that students are at a point in their lives when they are beginning to make many decisions on their own, including what brands they want to be loyal to. But like most consumers, college students won’t believe it till they see it—this is why the idea of hiring a student representative, who can effectively promote a brand by simply making others see it. These reps are subtle, yet influential among their peers; they wear the clothes, they use the products, and they are educated on the brand. These students are the epitome of a walking billboard, and they have been placed in the heart of their target market. And while they do a lot of promotion, they also report feedback to their brand as a representative for their campus.
The idea of the college rep is a creative and effective strategy that challenges guerilla marketing tactics. Especially with the rapid growth of the social media scene, it only takes one person with a large network of friends to promote a brand that he or she believes in and if all works out that brand can instantly go “viral”.
-LaPuasa, Dillard, Reinhardt