As August comes to a close, you’ve probably noticed the barrage of “Back to School” ads that hold your every neuron hostage. They’re speaking, as usual, to the head of the spending household. But the head of which spending household?
Millions of young Americans are heading out to college as hyper-connected, tech savvy thinkers with a budget and their own personal brand to uphold. That’s right, the Class of 2015 is out the door and ready to make an impact.
Their outlook on life has been dramatically altered by world events and social media. Technology has enabled their own personal brand-building, beginning from the time they were old enough to click a mouse. And when they say something, it’s not a handful of the select few who hear them, it’s hundreds upon hundreds of “friends” with open ears and fingers just itching to text or tweet.
When I was a freshman at Boston University, I signed up for an MBNA credit card during a football game. As a result, today both myself and our company bank with Bank of America (who later acquired MBNA). This is illustrative of the lifetime customer opportunity the Class of 2015 provides. Now imagine what effect my own loyalty could have had given the tech savvy of today’s college kid. After all, I have thousands of social media connections.
Recognizing this, our agency launched a study to find out what motivates this year’s class of college freshmen, and what every brand need to understand to effectively reach them.
Based on our findings, I give you five ways to friend the class of 2015.
1. HELP THEM EXPRESS THEIR PERSONAL BRAND
At 17, members of the Class of 2015 have already spent five years using social media to build and hone their personal brands. They know that a strong résumé alone won’t be enough to land a job straight out of college. If you help them enhance their personal brand, they will, in turn, embrace yours.
Getting It Right: Intel
Intel’s Museum Of Me campaign allows Gen Y consumers to celebrate their personal brand by creating a startling visual museum of photographs that define one’s social persona. By allowing its primary product messaging to take a backseat and giving its core tech target an engaging tool to promote themselves, Intel gets to join along for the ride.
2. INTEGRATE ORGANICALLY INTO THEIR WORLD
It’s vital to stay on top of where this consumer lives and plays online. You must know which gadgets are hot and those that are not. What’s hot? 67% access Facebook from their phone and 58% use Twitter “all the time.” What’s not? Only 12% are using Foursquare, and just 13% plan on getting a cable TV package.
Getting It Right: Victoria’s Secret Pink
At over 10 million fans, Pink is one of the largest and most prolific brand communities on Facebook. What makes them different? Pink’s marketing strategy has steered away from traditional media since its 2005 launch. The sizzling youth apparel brand vigorously pursued a highly engaged and energetic community, which had developed organically. They now reap those rewards though a massive owned-media channel which makes their marketing efforts more efficient each year.
3. GET IN GOOD WITH THEIR FRIENDS
The most valuable utility a brand can provide this generation is a connection to their friends. Understanding the pathways to creating meaningful bonds between the Class of 2015 and their peers requires knowing how to navigate social channels effectively. Interestingly though, more than 50% of the Class of 2015 have over 300 friends on Facebook, yet 73% only consider someone a “friend” if they have hung out in person.
Getting It Right: Arcade Fire
What’s more personal than the street you grew up on? To promote the launch of its new album, The Wilderness Downtown, Grammy-winning artists Arcade Fire used HTML5 to allow their fans to customize their newest music video using Google Maps imagery from their own hometown. Participants took the opportunity to eagerly share their version of the video with all of their friends from the neighborhood and elsewhere. Arcade Fire fast became the soundtrack of childhood and created a unique emotional bond with music fans.
4. BECOME AN ON-DEMAND BRAND
The Class of 2015 is a generation of multi-tech multi-taskers. They are highly selective with the technologies they use; everything must serve a purpose. Their attention is fragmented across multiple devices, with 80% using two or more devices simultaneously while watching TV.
Getting It Right: Xbox
Xbox has shot ahead of competitors like Sony and Nintendo by reinventing the gaming console product into the ultimate home entertainment centerpiece, especially in space-starved dorm rooms. Xbox Live has formed a vibrant online community of Gen Y males who simultaneously trash-talk and build on “bromances” while they use their Microsoft Points to purchase game add-ons, movies, and late-night digital snacks.
5. GET TO KNOW THEM AND DON’T ASSUME
While the Class of 2010 cared about how expensive something was, the status it provided, and the celebrity it was tied to, the Class of 2015’s preferences are based on a different set of values. Your brand cannot afford to be disingenuous or preachy. If you know the social currencies they use and how they want to be incentivized, they know you're listening. As far as opening that wallet? 73% have earned some form of virtual currency.
Getting It Right: Miracle Whip
How do you convince Gen Y to talk about mayonnaise, of all things? By allowing for, and embracing, honest product feedback, for better or worse. Through its website and social media channels, Miracle Whip encourages consumers to profess their love or their hate for the brand. In an age where many companies still fear how to deal with negative consumer comments in the social space, this brave brand embraces honesty, and the Class of 2015 is likely to embrace them, even the tangy-zip haters.
The Class of 2015 are your future employees, customers, and advocates. Friend them now and reap the rewards for years to come.
Disclaimer: Microsoft, Victoria’s Secret, Intel, Sony, Nintendo, Google, and Bank Of America are all either former or current clients of Mr Youth LLC.