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Colleges Need to Pay Attention to How Big Brands Market Themselves

Big brands like Under Armor, Nike, Mountain Dew, Gap and others have been effectively using social and mobile apps to market their brands to GenZ, people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, for quite some time. You don’t see big brands attempting to reach their “digital age” GenZ audience with email, direct mail, or phone calls. Why? Because they all know that Gen Zers are less likely to respond to marketing methods employed to prior generations of consumers. So, why aren’t colleges and universities following their lead?

Understanding How to Market to Gen Z

Also know as the iGen, Gen Tech, Gen Wii, Net Gen, Digital Natives and Plurals, today’s college bound kids have grown up with iPads and iPhones. 77 percent of 12-to-17 year olds in the United States own cell phones. Not surprisingly, texting is Gen Z’s preferred communication mode, followed by social media interaction. And they use their phones to research everything, including colleges. According to a recent study, 8 of 10 students accessed a college website from their phones and 1/3 of students used their phone as their primary research tool.

Gen Z communicates and collaborates using social media – so much so that you almost never see TV ads promoting products for this audience. Social media and their associated mobile apps are the new “TV channels” of yesteryear. Live streaming on YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and others are where college bound students are “tuning in” as well as social apps. Research shows that Gen Z is much more influenced by Instagram (44%), Snapchat (21%) and YouTube (32%) than other audiences.

And gone are the days of “click advertising”, something that appealed to Millennials. If something appears “promotional” to GenZers they ignore it. On the other hand, if the content is personal to their needs and desires – it’s well received and your brand awareness soars. If you can create a sense of belonging, togetherness or personalization to solve a need or hit a chord then GenZ pays attention and responds.

Reaching College Bound Gen Z Students

While there are hundreds of articles on how to market products to Gen Z, not much attention has been given to how to translate this to college search and recruitment. Colleges need to look at the success the consumer market has had in marketing to Gen Z and apply it to the admissions process.

The same expectations Gen Z has of consumer brands applies to colleges and universities too. Here’s some tips on attracting and engaging with college bound Gen Z students:

  • Offer them a digital experience that allows them to find what they need, when they need it.
  • Provide a clear message and call to action. (Gen Z has an 8 second attention span!)
  • Offer an entertaining and interactive method to answer questions.
  • Make sure your website renders on a mobile phone and is easy to navigate.
  • Provide channels for 1:1 personal connections that include messaging and texting, in addition to email.
  • Continue to engage and nurture them after they’ve been in touch.
  • Most importantly, make it personal.

The bottom line is colleges that don’t adapt to how Gen Z consumes messages will lose potential candidates as they begin to enter the application cycle.

Learn how College Interactive is leveraging technology, social, and mobile apps to drive student search, engagement and recruitment.