The problem of marketing to a younger generation isn’t a new one. While millennials only make up about 10% of general consumers, they (and their parents) are the primary market for Higher Ed marketing. So, how and where do we reach them?
1) Strategy across social media platforms:
While everyone is familiar with Facebook, millennials actually have been leaving it for other, newer, mediums: Instagram and Snapchat, among others. Facebook can still be useful marketing tool, but a stagnant university “fan” page and typical ad content isn’t going to do the same work as a more personal approach. (Native content is a buzzworthy phrase for a reason.)
Also consider how product placement can benefit your brand, whether in traditional outlets like television, or in the form of viral videos or web shows. Studies show that millennials are especially susceptible to product placement, because they are so used to its ubiquity. So, while there’s a 98% chance somebody paid a celebrity to wear that Yale hoodie in their music video, millennials are likely to simply take in the image, rather than question its authenticity.
2) Don’t try too hard:
Learn from missteps made by others: young people have a curated concept of “cool” and will call out brands that are phony. When McDonald’s tried to coax an indie band to play free under their banner at SXSW, they were blasted on social media and lost a lot of millennial customers. The same holds for schools: if partying is your “thing” (I’m looking at you, LSU), then by all means, make that clear to your prospective students. But if your institution is better known for excellence in the arts, don’t try to sell millennials on its “coolness”: you’d fare better being straightforward and true to your culture.
3) Money talks:
Millennials, and of course, their parents, are more aware of the danger of the student loan crisis than any previous generations. Devote valuable content space to explaining scholarships and fellowships available, built-in benefits, and plans for students to finance their degree. (Initiate and control the conversation about finances so that prospective students and their parents realize their options when they look up your university’s tuition.)
4) Diversify your strategy:
Focus on reaching millennials where they live: on the internet. Social media, TV, and non-traditional media outlets are all necessary to reach prospective undergrads. But if their parents are footing the bill, it may make sense to additionally mail traditional promos to homes, knowing it is more likely to reach the parents than the students. The same remains true for outlets like NPR and newspapers. If the message of your university is carefully planted in the minds of students and parents alike, your university won’t only have an enthusiastic upcoming freshman, but a mom and dad who are happy to foot the bill.