Back-to-College: Reaching tomorrow’s most valuable consumers today

Now that U.S. campuses are beginning to fill with nearly 20 million students, it’s a good time to consider what this means to your brand today and tomorrow. At this very moment, they have back-to-school needs and interests. Not too far down the road, they have the potential to become your most profitable customers.


3 key reasons why they’re the most sought-after segment:


  • After they graduate, they will earn anywhere from 42% – 135% more than workers with no degree


  • College years represent a pivotal time in people’s lives when they are straying from parents and defining who they are and want to be. Connect with them now and you could reap some serious lifetime value.


How do you connect to Gen Z? Some traditional brands are doing surprisingly well.

 Student brand ambassadors have been a big thing for companies such as Nike for a long time. As you’d expect, social media is playing a larger role within ambassador marketing with an onslaught of students getting paid to promote products via Instagram.


What’s more surprising is how some traditional, non-tech brands are now ranked highest among Gen Z. Among the top 25 are Walmart and Dunkin Doughnuts. It seems counterintuitive  given this generation’s supposed disdain for big corporations who count their parents as consumers. Let’s take a look into some of the ways these mega-brands connect with Gen Z.


How Mega-Brands Connect with Gen Z

Last year, Walmart’s influencer strategy became apparent. It now works with brands that sell on to embed “buy” buttons on influencer blogs. Many product pages feature influencers and they famously worked with YouTube channel Ryan ToysReview to develop a line of toys last year. Add all of this savvy marketing to the fact that Gen Z values convenience along with the option to shop in a store (which is why online brands are now adding brick and mortar), and you can understand Walmart’s recipe for success.


Dunkin’ Donuts published its mobile app way back in 2012. Last year, it was redesigned along with the new Dunkin branding that focuses on getting you the beverage you want on the go (think “America Runs on Dunkin”). They also became the first national coffee chain to allow gifting and payment within Apple’s iMessage. Through the DD app and iMessage, Dunkin fans can use stickers in messages or create cards to send a gift of Dunkin. That’s especially smart since Apple’s iPhone is still the top choice among college students.


A passing thought:

Now would be a great time to think about your college intern strategy for next summer. Chances are, your next intern will know more about appealing to Gen Z college students than you can find in any blog.

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