What I’ve Learned Marketing to College Students

Short answer? It’s awful.

Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed my job as the Marketing Director for the Georgetown Program Board. I’ve loved it. But it’s a constant, brutal uphill battle.

Your audience (at Georgetown, at least) is a large group of stubborn socialites who want what they want, when they want it. All of them know when they’re being marketed to, and none of them like it. And yes. They all believe that they are way better than you. And finally, their attention span for anything you have to market to them is about six seconds.

So…where to begin. Here’s a list of a few things I’ve found in the past two years. Hopefully they’ll be helpful to, well, me when I get frustrated in the next month or two.

  • Nothing works well. Everything works a little.
    There is no one thing that I can directly control that will have a strong effect. Social media, flyering, tabling, promotional giveaways, you name it. None of them will individually have a noticeable effect. All of them? Might work okay.
  • So what does work? Word of mouth. That’s it.
    Everything I do as the Marketing Director now is to do nothing more than get people to tell their friends and convince each other to go…which usually at the last minute…not helping my stress levels.
  • On that note, your marketing push doesn’t end until your event is done or your goal is accomplished.
    Up until the last minute (and after), students will still be deliberating about whether to go or not. Don’t let up.
  • You’re going to have to hit people over the head, and that’s okay.
    Like I said, college students have an attention span of about 6 seconds…if you’re lucky. So they probably won’t even notice that they’re being (somewhat) harassed with marketing materials until after you’ve already passed the end of your timeline. So don’t stress too much about it. Be direct and always be there.
  • Co-sponsorships. Co-sponsorships, Co-sponsorships, Co-sponsorships.
    Student life (especially at Georgetown, oh my God) revolves around student clubs and organizations. Find groups to co-sponsor or help you market whatever it is that you want to market.
    Students only trust students they know. Word of mouth. Like I said – it’s the only thing that works.
  • Free giveaways help.
    Waterbottles and stickers. Really stickers? I know. It’s amazing how many people will take a sticker and put it on their waterbottle/laptop. Just a subconscious reaction. It’s fascinating. Anyway.

Alright. So. Final answer?

You’re going to have to push yourself and find the absolute core of what you’re trying to get across. In the end, you’re going to be able to market and communicate anything to anybody.