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Personal Branding: Word-of-Mouth for Gen Z

Before social media, one of the most valuable promotions a brand could get was word of mouth. That is, real customers telling people they know about their favorite products, and why they like them so much. But it seems that recently, social media has now taken over this role in many ways. It’s on these social platforms that we notice what people wear, what they eat, where they go on vacation, and more.

Gen Z is especially talented at using these different preferences to curate their personal brand. They create and release content that represents them and all aspects of their personality. One of the ways they develop this brand is by associating oneself with popular corporate brands, in the hopes that an element of that tone or message is incorporated with their own.

Plenty of people on Instagram are willing to post themselves wearing the brand names they really like without being paid, it’s a natural occurrence not unlike word-of-mouth. The difference with social media is that the reach and impressions are much larger– and the communication is instant.

While people can involve a unique blend of styles and integrate the tone of multiple brands, corporate brands are limited in some ways to their own identity. Every brand has certain connotations that people associate with them, they also have the ability to embrace or resist new connotations, and new audiences as they come and go. So what makes Gen Z want to include a brand as part of their personal image? The key is getting them to identify with the brand.

Arguably the most important aspect of identification is personalization. Gen Z in particular wants to feel as though a brand is speaking directly to them, as individuals. This makes knowing and embracing your specific audience more important than ever. Blanket strategies simply aren’t effective for a generation made up of extremely individualized young people. If you want to see more people embrace your brand, your brand needs to embrace more individuals and their unique qualities.

Values are extremely important to Gen Z as well. You need to support the causes that your target audience supports, but more importantly, make these causes and values part of your mission and brand identity. If Gen Z can help support the causes they love by also supporting a brand they like, they are much more likely to integrate it into their personal brand and even help promote it.

Building this personal connection to members of Gen Z pays off. When a celebrity is paid to post about a product, your audience understands that they are being sold to, and they lose credibility and authenticity. But people understand that young people love to share what they love, and when they share on their own terms, they don’t lose credibility. This natural awareness and acceptance is a sign of brand success that could save you millions in creative and PR and it’s all part of positioning correctly and knowing how to speak to your audience.

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Mobile Device Survey

At Campus, we are all for making new technologies part of your marketing mix. College students are without a doubt early adopters and certainly trend setters when it comes to how social technology is used. But we asked ourselves; what’s hyped up and what’s real? Here’s a select handful of what we have found. We asked college students how likely they were to do the following:

Buy a product from their mobile phone

With every trend-watcher and marketer in the world constantly reminding us how the world is going mobile, it is easy to forget what a small part it still plays in commerce. Don’t get us wrong, if you’re targeting students, mobile should (soon) be part of your marketing mix. But as you can see, the majority of our respondents actually said it is ‘very unlikely’ (41%) or ‘unlikely’ (27%) that they will buy a product from their phone. Only 4.5% of our respondents indicated that it would be ‘very likely’. What does this tell us? Though the vast majority of data shows how mobile is becoming increasingly important it’s still early.

Submit a text to vote during a TV program

College students sure text a lot, but it seems like the whole ‘text to vote’ hype is primarily driven by high school students, or at least the younger-than-college crowd. Still, as much as 28% of college students said they are either ‘somewhat likely’ or ‘very likely’ to vote by text.

Use maps to find a place to shop

Whether it’s on their phones, laptop or at the library computer – college students will look it up before they shop. Major search engines have known this for years and built great map services. Recently location-based services have become popular, such as Foursquare. Such services let you ‘check-in’ at a physical locations, either to earn points or simply show people that you were there. Facebook Places also gives you the option to check in at your favorite places. More than 70% of our respondents said it was ‘somewhat likely’ or ‘very likely’ that they will use maps to find a place to shop.

Check in somewhere

This is where things get interesting, it seems like the audience more-or-less splits in two. On one side, we have the 60% that do not use these kinds of services. On the other side, we have the 35% that do. Are we looking at a bell-curve picture here? Are we simply dealing with a classic case of early vs late adopters? We are certainly not going to speculate in the future of location-based services (at least not in this thread), but regardless of what your take is – they’re growing fast and participating is relatively easy.

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College Students Aren’t Buying Spring Trends

A recent survey of 600 college-aged “style gurus” from CollegeFashionista.com was conducted by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business last month.  This survey discovered that young fashion-conscious shoppers aren’t enthused about this spring’s fashions.  Tired of several brands, repetitive fashion and tedious campaigns, they are looking for something new and cutting edge.

The millennial demographic is estimated to be responsible for $65 billion in retail spending in fashion categories.  By taking fewer chances on innovative fashion, retailers could potentially lose out on young consumers who decide to spend their money elsewhere– If it’s already in their closet, why spend more?

Thanks to Kalypso and CollegeFashionista.com, consumer sentiment towards fashion trends is measurable.  This allows retailers to adapt to emerging fashion trends, while gaining honest feedback from the consumers that matter most.  Once popular Abercrombie & Fitch – notorious for its use of sexualized marketing techniques and policies about body type and physical attributes – is not sitting well with millennial women any longer.  “College-aged women are responding negatively to the position that Abercrombie has established.  They might not mind the clothes, but they definitely don’t like the values the brand appears to represent. ” John Talbott, associate director of the IU Kelley School of Business’ Center for Education and Research in Retailing’.

Read more about Abercrombie’s brand re-vamp here:

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/shirts-boys-abercrombie-says-its-done-sexualized-marketing-164300

http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2015/05/spring-2015-findex-fashion-index.shtml

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Using Virtual and Augmented Reality in Experiential Marketing

In 2017, it seems as though we live in a world that is saturated with marketing messages and advertisements. By constantly being plugged into a laptop, tablet or smartphone, it’s easy for consumers to become immune to the messages being thrown at us 24/7. However in this new digital age, many companies are starting to adopt an experiential marketing strategy to help differentiate themselves from their competitors. Defined by BostInno as messaging you can not only see, but touch, hear, and feel in a physical space, experiential marketing helps to strengthen bond between brand and consumer, doing more than traditional advertising alone.

So how are companies implementing experiential marketing and how are they making their products stand out? The answer seems like something out of the future: virtual reality and augmented reality. While virtual reality is a computer generation that stimulates both vision and hearing of users making them feel as though they are experiencing the simulated reality directly, augmented reality blends digital components into the real world allowing users to interact with virtual contents in real world while still being able to distinguish between the two.

If you think that VR and AR are technologies only reserved for the tech savvy elite, think again. According to CMO, there are now more ways than ever to experience virtual reality, with devices becoming simpler and more accessible. Goldman Sachs even estimates that the VR and AR markets will be worth a combined $185 billion by 2025, compared to their combined $5.2 billion worth in 2016.

With this projected growth, it seems as though VR and AR are the marketing ways of the future. However while they’re still being further developed and streamlined, getting ahold of these technologies nowadays isn’t that difficult as many well known brands have already adopted these strategies. In fact, you don’t even need to go further than your smartphone to get VR and AR experiences. Snapchat, for example, uses augmented reality advertisements through snap filters. Brands reportedly spend between $250,000 and $750,000 on these ads depending on the date, geographical coverage and reach. Google has also developed their own VR app which has been downloaded 10 million times. Using a simple cardboard headset in conjunction with the app, consumers get a 360 VR experience right through their smartphones. Brands such as the New York Times utilize this platform to create special VR content to help give their subscribers a new experience through videos. And lastly, over 65 million people per month try to “catch ‘em all” while playing the insanely popular game, Pokemon Go. Since the game’s launch last summer, it has added $7.5 billion to Nintendo’s market value. Being that 62% of consumers say they feel more engaged with brands that sponsor a VR experience, it’s no wonder that these companies have already found so much success using VR and AR in simple ways.

As more companies begin to adopt this trend and VR wearables get less bulky and more practical for everyday use, researchers predict that 500 million VR headsets will be sold between 2020 and 2025, while the AR market will be worth approximately $120 billion annually. Undoubtedly, VR and AR will be extremely useful in the ecommerce market, as 63% of consumers say that testing out products virtually will help make shopping more beneficial. As a prime example, Boston-based digital ad agency, Inphantry, recently helped orchestrate a successful, immersive AR pop up exhibition in a Houston shopping mall, helping to promote Nike’s AJXX8 sneaker, one of the newer additions to the brand’s Air Jordan line. Customers were given a series of challenges to complete while wearing the shoe (i.e. dribbling, dunking, and jumping) while also wearing a Jordan branded bracelet with RFID chip (radio-frequency identification) that tracked their scores and clearance level. After completing the challenges, high scorers could then experience and Air Jordan pop-up museum and lounge. Customers were encouraged to share pictures on social media of their experience, generating buzz for the newly launched shoe. Overall, the pop up experience helped attract 2,500 users.

So, if you’re convinced that either a VR or AR experience will help your brand, experts agree there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s important to remember that these technologies are meant to enhance, not replace, existing marketing strategy. You should also remember to stay true to your brand’s message and make sure that VR and AR fit into the overall campaign where it makes sense. Lastly, with the increased use of VR, there will be an increased focus on the quality of the experience. As VR develops, marketers and brands will need to hone in on strategies to utilize VR and AR to deliver groundbreaking experiences that will set them apart from the rest.

Have more questions on how to bring VR and AR into your marketing strategy? Contact us.

Photo Source: https://www.virtuance.com/blog/virtual-reality-real-estate/

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Interactive Marketing: The Missing Link for Direct-to-Consumer Brands

Brands can no longer get away with simply selling products and services. We have entered an age where they must also contribute an emotional and aesthetic experience tailored to their customer’s needs.

Within the past 10 years, many direct-to-consumer, also known as D2C, brands have become extremely successful because of improvements in supply chain and distribution. They’re known around the web for their creative digital strategy with a strong focus on social media campaigns. What they lack in publicity derived from physical locations, they make up for by undercutting competitors and noteworthy customer service.

These companies attempt to “live online” right alongside their customer base. While some have chosen to expand into retail, such as Warby Parker; many others are staying put right where they are.

In a recent interview, Glossier CEO Emily Weiss explained that the company had no plans to open additional brick and mortar locations, “We don’t see retail as a growth lever with the online space we have created.” Instead they have chosen to double down on their online platform.

The problem with retail is the high overhead and lack of flexibility. The cost of operation forces brands to focus heavily on sales, which often subtracts from the desired experience they originally intended on.

But retail does have one big advantage: the person to person interaction. Sales associates, if trained properly can be a key player in creating natural brand awareness and even embody brand personality and image. This dual purpose helps customers connect to brands through genuine conversation. People who stand on common ground can share the values and tone of the brand much better than a digital ad can. So how can direct-to-consumer brands make up for this loss in person to person interaction?

The answer is experience driven events. These events are highly branded and highly interactive. They can be easily tailored to work for any brand and embody the type of experience that they want to give their audience.

They are also flexible, and can be specifically targeted for a particular season and particular location. There’s no concern about inventory, management, turnover rate or sales. This allows for a focus solely on creating an experience for the audience, which will promote brand message and identity.

By placing these activations in high traffic areas, they can achieve a higher number of impressions and interactions in a shorter amount of time. Best of all, when compared to the cost of opening a retail location, these promotional events are much lower in cost.

But most direct-to-consumer companies don’t have a high employee count because their business models require them to be as efficient as possible. For most, it would be extremely taxing to host an interactive marketing program on their own. However, our team at The Campus Agency has a wealth of experience managing programs just like these. Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions, or if you might be interested in starting an experiential campaign.

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What Makes Experiential Marketing Relevant?

In a recent Gen Z survey by The Campus Agency, 58% of college students ranked Instagram as the social platform they view most often, followed most closely by Snapchat at only 17%. Instagram is leading the charge in the world of digital marketing. It offers inexpensive, highly targeted ads that can be listed in only minutes. So why do some of the most successful brands continue to turn towards interactive, experience driven campaigns?

While social posts are great for building interest and awareness, interactive events are key to creating a powerful emotional experience that allows your audience to take part in your brand. So many brands advertise on mobile every day, but only a few put in the work to get people off of their phones and interacting with people.

A Lasting Impact
What does it mean to be memorable? How about a meaningful conversation they had about free speech, fake news and the importance of staying current with an on-campus ambassador from the most read newspaper in the U.S. Or maybe it’s the epic shoe party and fashion show that happened on their quad last weekend.

At the heart of all these experiences is the brands ability to show their audience who they are and what they stand for, beyond flashy photos and clever taglines. By showing their values, brands enable consumers to create a deeper connection and build loyalty. Experiential marketing is vital to showcasing this brand identity, especially when it doesn’t have any brick and mortar locations. What brands need are the people who make it real, and customers connections with these people are what allows them to identify with a brand.

Organic Social
If done right, your activation should be highly branded, unique, and most importantly sharable. Ask yourself, “Is this instagramable?” At the end of the day, the best result you can get is your audience posting their own unique content that features your activation. Why is this? Because they most likely share many demographics with their peers/followers, which means hitting more of your target audience. In addition, seeing someone they know with your activation will make it personally relevant to them.

Due to the nature of user generated content, their posts will blend in well with the rest of the feed, it won’t stick out like a sore thumb like advertisements on social. Depending on how long your activation runs, this will help attract more people to it, which means higher impressions and higher overall ROI.

New Insights
While social media marketing does have the ability to be highly targeted, interactive marketing events are an opportunity to gather more information and more insights about your audience that you may not have previously known. In some cases, these events even allow brands to reconsider who their target is, and tap into a demographic they hadn’t considered.