By Shannon Bianchi • May 23 2017
Dear Brand Name,
Over the past couple of years, I’m sure you’ve poured countless money and resources into researching, studying, and trying to crack the code to reaching the Millennial generation. From their work habits to their ideas on buying, people have been fascinated with Generation Y for the past few years. After all, they are the biggest generation with the greatest spending power, right? While this fact remains true, it won’t be for much longer. All your findings on Generation Y and everything you thought you knew about reaching these buying powerhouses is about to become obsolete. This is because a new generation of spenders is about to come of age, and they’re even more powerful than the Millennials. This new breed of consumers is known as Generation Z and according to The Huffington Post, they will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020 (that’s a lot sooner than it sounds).
Generation Z, also known as those born after 1996, are much different than their older Gen Y siblings. According to BizJournals, some researchers refer to them as the “pivotal generation,” in contrast to the Millennial generation. This means they are pivoting back towards a more traditional view of personal success, work ethic, and money management. These are kids who came of age during the Great Recession, have seen their parents stressed about income and finances and have bared witness to the harsh realities of the global economy through digital media. Between this and the constant exposure to the internet and mobile phones since they were born, Gen Zers tend to value honesty, transparency, and authenticity
So now that you know a little bit more about the next generation of great spenders, ask yourself “how can my brand reach this generation and stand out from the rest? How can we begin to form relationships now to ensure brand loyalty in the future when their true spending power comes to fruition?” The answer is simple: a campus representative program (also can be referred to as brand reps, brand advocates, collegiate ambassadors, etc--you get the idea).
Since most Gen Zers are either already in the college space or are about to become co-eds, this puts them in the perfect, bubble-like atmosphere to show them how your brand can benefit their lifestyle. You already know that Gen Z craves authenticity and transparency. Therefore hiring a designated student(s) rep on campus who thinks, talks, and acts like your target audience will be your best bet for ensuring authenticity and generating brand awareness. If you begin to put your resources towards relationships and engagement, it will make interaction meaningful and your brand memorable. Here are a few ways campus ambassadors can help your brand resonate with Gen Z:
According to AdWeek, 77% of Gen Zers prefer ads that show real people in real situations. A campus rep program does exactly that. Students will respond much better to someone they perceive as similar to them, as opposed to a normal sales person. Most importantly, this is an opportunity for you to enlist students with personalities that fit the brand and the message you’re trying to convey--these will be your best spokespeople. And since Gen Zers prefer transparency, you can prepare your student reps with the direct messages you want them to convey to your target audience.
Brand Loyalty and Instant Gratification
By having a direct peer represent your brand, you can show students how your product would benefit their lifestyle and keep them coming back for more. Campus reps are the perfect agents to execute brand activations, marketing events, and make your brand a known presence. Also offering student discounts, deals, and premium items will further incentivize the audience you’re catering to and make them remember you. Not to mention, it allows for instant gratification (remember, these kids have the attention span of about 8 seconds). Utilize your campus reps to deliver that instant gratification--arm them with enough branded swag to reward loyal customers and to start generating a little buzz on campus. If you don’t capture their attention and begin to cultivate a relationship now, another brand will.
Simply choosing a student to represent your brand on campus isn’t enough; choosing the right student makes all the difference. This person should be considered a “social influencer,” meaning other students on campus look to them for what the latest trends are, and they do so through social media. Your rep should be the type of person who not only has a strong pre-existing network, but can also work to build relationships with other students. And because nearly 40% of Gen Zer’s say social media has a direct effect on their happiness, they should have a strong social media following. As a campus rep, they can post authentic content of your product and help students associate your brand with them. People will begin to look to your campus rep for information on your brand and new products. Their following will become your following. Not to mention, Gen Zers have their specific set of etiquette and rules on different social media platforms, according to BizJournals. They know how to leverage their Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter profiles to their advantage. And they’re smart enough to know that Facebook is for Mom and Grandma.
Finally, and possibly the most valuable asset to having a campus rep, will be feedback collection. Brand ambassadors are your built in source of information on campus. According to Fortune, Gen Z values consistent and honest conversations to help build relationships. If they know a brand is willing to talk with them and not at them, they’ll be more likely to trust it. Thinking of a new product or idea but not sure how students will respond? Ask your student reps. Have them ask their friends. Have them distribute a survey on campus. They are the best source of insight and they’re not afraid to be honest and critical. In fact, they actually revel in it.
So there you have it. Not convinced that your brand needs a campus rep program? Companies such as The New York Times, Google and Showtime have already all hopped aboard the Campus Rep train and they’ve seen great results from their respective Campus Rep programs. So what is your brand waiting for?
The Campus Team