Engaging with College Students and Luxury Brands

Social media is everywhere these days. Whether college students are looking on social media to find out what their friends did over the weekend or looking to find the latest fashion trends, college students are on social media a lot. One of the things social media is known for is selling items to people. It could be everything from beauty to high fashion clothing, the images, music, and general aesthetic brands use to help to sell their products. But the problem that is happening now is young adults want to buy luxury brands but can’t afford them. So how do these luxury brands find ways to still connect with this important audience with the knowledge that right now, may not be able to afford them?


Even though most college kids can’t afford a $4,200 Prada handbag, the opportunity for Prada to listen to this crowd of consumers is important. In Creevey, Coughlan, and O’Connor’s research study, they found that “Consumer attitudes are investigated by brands on social media through sentiment analysis of multiple forms of UGC (user-generated content), especially online reviews (Creevey et al., 2021). Understanding that brands are looking at user-generated content to make their decisions is important for college kids to know. But it’s also important for brands to make sure they are listening and acting on what they learn from consumers online because the authors see it as “an effective way of harnessing real-time information in evaluating client opinion and perception of brands (Creevey et al., 2021) as consumers perceive UGC and eWOM as trustworthy sources of information (Creevey et al., 2021).”

Increase Engagement

The next key part of how luxury brands should think about the college-age consumer is by increasing their engagement with them. The authors noted this by saying “Luxury communication remains more emotional than informational (Okonkwo, 2010), effective communication via social media poses a challenge (Cervellon & Galipienzo, 2015) (Creevey et al., 2021).  Luxury brands should really be looking at this as an opportunity to engage with college-age students by looking for emotional ways to connect with them. This could be done by using images and music that inspire this age group by using trending Tik Tok sounds or trying to find ways to use filters that fit with their brand. Working on this strategy will help luxury brands because “social media use is a significant predictor of materialism (Kamal et al., 2013), which is associated with conspicuous consumption whereby individuals are more likely to display brands more aligned with their ideal self than their actual self on social media (Wallace et al., 2020) (Creevey et al., 2021).

The authors in this research study also shared important examples of early adopters of social media by luxury brands including Louis Vuitton using Facebook to share photos of their catwalk fashion shows with fans. Doing this gives fans an inside look into that world without them feeling like they need to purchase something. When brands do things like this on social media, it helps create a connection between the brand and the consumer.

Why This Matters

College students and luxury brands should take the time to read and understand this research study because it’s important for the study of integrated marketing. College students should know they serve an important role in consuming social media by luxury brands but don’t need to be intimidated by it simply because they can’t afford it right now.

Luxury brands should take the time to read this research study because as the authors said, “Change has occurred not only in the format of business communication but also in consumers’ capacity to construct, distribute and consume brand-related messages. This presents a wealth of opportunities and challenges for businesses, particularly the luxury industry. The democratization of the creation and distribution of business communication, fueled by the ubiquity of social media, continues to pose pertinent questions for luxury brands striving to preserve a reputation grounded in exclusivity, rarity, and uniqueness” (Creevey et al., 2021).

What is important for brands to understand is that establishing a solid relationship with college-aged students now means they are working to grow that relationship online for years to come. Just because a college student can’t afford it now, doesn’t mean that in five to 10 years, that could change. The authors also said “These platforms have accentuated a disruption in the power relations between brands and consumers, due in no small part to the velocity at which information can be exchanged among individuals (Pantano, 2021), constituting a profound challenge to traditional branding theory and practice” (Creevey et al., 2021). The luxury brands that really embrace what it means to be online with a college-aged audience and engage with them, will be able to help sustain customers for life.


 Creevey, D., Coughlan, J., & O’Connor, C. (2021). Social media and luxury: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Management Reviews, 24(1). https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12271