We are now in November. For those of you who were involved with the Freshers marketing season, it will feel like a distant memory as the run in for Christmas dawns on us. For someone that has been involved in the student marketing sphere for a number of years, Freshers 2017 was by far one of the biggest I have experienced in my time at BAM, which is testament to more brands seeing the value in student consumers.
Now Freshers has finished, it’s always interesting to see how brands view the value of targeting students at other times of the calendar year. Freshers is the premier time of the year to reach students. They are highly visible in their masses, allowing brands to re-target students in the later stages of their degrees, as well as engaging with impressionable youths at the start of their academic journey. Time and time again when speaking to Freshers active brands post-season, the general notion presented is ‘mission complete’; students tend to become an afterthought until freshers the following year starts to re-emerge.
For some brands this works, they are seasonally in sync with Freshers, it’s their only window of opportunity to capitalise on this market. For others, they are missing multiple key times to re-engage and enhance their student ROI and brand equity. For the majority of students aged 18-24, university is a 3-4 year self defining journey. Individual identities are created and established during this period which they will carry into their latter years. An important influencer along this journey are the brands they adopt along the way.
Freshers from a timing perspective lasts around 6 weeks across the UK each year. On average most students will study for 3 years which in total (inc. holidays) is 106 weeks. If brands stuck to Freshers marketing only, out of these 106 weeks they will have overlooked 88 weeks of a student’s university life cycle. If you aren’t communicating to students during this time, doesn’t it open up the opportunity for your competitors to undo all your hard work from Freshers?
Students are early adopters. If you tick the right boxes then you can on board a lifelong advocate, however adopters will keep an open mind about brands so if a competitor starts to emerge then the danger you face is losing a proportion of your student equity to a rival. We all know that Freshers is a highly lucrative time to target students, but brands do often forget that this is the start of their spending, which continues throughout the academic year. Here are some financials to put this into perspective…
There are approximately 2.5million university students in the UK, collectively spending around £23billion each year. This figure does account for their cost of living (e.g. accommodation and utilities), but this doesn’t deter students from spending significant sums on luxury and essential items, for example a yearly estimated…
£3.5billion is spent on food items e.g. restaurants, fast food, takeaways and supermarkets
£2billion on non-essential luxury items such as clothes, homeware and entertainment
£2billion on social activities
In a nutshell, students have disposable income and if they want something and the cash is readily available, they will purchase it. This spending is spread across the academic year, as we know loan payments and other forms of funding are paid out on a termly basis, not in one go at the start of the academic year. So the call for brands to re-engage with students at key buying times is important if they want a strong ROI and brand loyalty from this demographic.
I have no doubt that the array of brands that have reached out to students over the past two months have observed a fruitful short term outcome. My advice for any brand looking to sustain and grow their successes in the long term is to start a journey of their own to be that brand a student recognises from day one at university and being tactically visible throughout each year until the day they graduate. As I see each year, the brands adopting this mentality are the ones genuinely winning.
If you need help or advice on how to maintain year round engagement with students, please get in touch today.
Written by: Mark Hodge, Business Development Manager, BAM Agency Ltd