Back to School: How Brands Targeted Students on College Campuses

By Melissa Ward Schorsch September 14, 2012, 4:13 PM EDT

This fall, students at the University of Central Florida could visit the Lily of France bra lounge on campus.

Photo: Courtesy of Campus Solutions

Companies large and small are wising up and hitting the pavement at college campuses around the country to promote their brands. Not only are college students of an age when they like to flash style-status brands and discover new ones, but the promotion and brand loyalty are quick to spread, as the students are concentrated in one place. According to Campus Solutions, a college marketing company that connects big brands to colleges and universities, students spend upward of $21.5 billion on food and beverage in one year, in addition to $21 billion on electronics and cell phones, $6.5 billion on shoes and clothing, $10.5 billion on entertainment, and $6 billion on beauty and health products.

From giveaways to sponsored events and hiring students as ambassadors for the academic year, brands are making an impression on students countrywide. “Brands are realizing more and more that marketing to college students is a multibillion-dollar business, and what better method to target this market than on campus, where they live and breathe?” said Bryan Carbone, president of Campus Solutions. “This is a huge demographic that is out there with money to spend.” With that in mind, here's a look at the promotions some brands created for the back-to-school season.

Eastern Mountain Sports
The outdoor gear brand worked with Campus Solutions to get student brand ambassadors for the school year. To reach freshman across the Northeast at the end of August, the ambassador teams put their social skills to good use by implementing a dorm room raid—that's a good old fashioned door-to-door strategy for you—to hand deliver branded door hangers and promotional materials including 20 percent off all full-price Eastern Mountain Sports brand items and 15 percent all full-price national brand products.

Lily of France
If there's one thing college girls love, it's cute undergarments, and Fruit of the Loom brand Lily of France played to that this fall with its first-ever bra lounge. The lingerie brand headed to the University of Central Florida and turned the student union into a 20- by 10-foot tented, intimate space where gals could get sized, try on samples, and enjoy nonalcoholic drinks and snacks. In addition to placing promotional ads in the campus newspaper, Lily of France worked with the school's fraternity and sorority system to send brand ambassadors around campus to build up buzz for the promotion, and there were plenty of incentives to participate. For example, the sorority with the most students in attendance at the lounge received a $500 donation to the sorority itself or a charity of their choice. Additionally, students were encouraged to shop for Lily of France products at Macy's and Kohl's, and the sorority with the most money spent at the end of September will get a $1,000 donation to their organization or charity.

Teen Vogue
Not that Teen Vogue needed any help adding to their already large cult following of 20-somethings, but add to it they did this fall, with their Teen Vogue Back-to-School Saturday campaign. Some 130 sorority chapters entered a contest in which they had to describe why they were worthy of winning a prize curated by the magazine. The applicants were judged on their community outreach, philanthropic activities, and social network reach. In the end, 50 sorority chapters from 12 colleges scored trunks filled with fashionable goodies like cosmetics, accessories, beauty products, and gift cards from brands like PacSun, Maybelline New York, Biore, CoverGirl, LeSport Sac, Neutrogena, Pantene, Rimmel, Gucci Eyewear, Givenchy, Quiksilver, and Olay.


In addition to its many other off-campus back-to-school promotions—like Target Stuff Scholarships, a video- and social media-driven contest for fun prizes such as a microwave and year's worth of cereal—Target celebrated the new fall semester with its 11th annual Target After-Hours Busing Events. Starting at the end of August and running through the end of September, Target is inviting freshman at 69 universities and colleges across the country to a private shopping event once stores close for the day. Students are bused from their respective campus to Target for shopping, discounts, and entertainment.

NexGen Biolabs
Unlike brands that offer clothing or dorm must-have products, NexGen Biolabs, a pharmacological supplements developer and retailer, took advantage of the season to promote its anti-anxiety and concentration-enhancing products, XanRx and AdderRx, to stressed or unfocused students. The brand sent college ambassadors armed with product samples to the most high-traffic areas of colleges, like the main student lounges, at Arizona University, Penn State, Ohio State, and other schools.

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