Before your brand embarks on a campus tour, make sure your activation is set up to turn students into loyal customers.

For the first thirteen years of our scholastic lives, most of us only had to worry about picking out a cool backpack, finding out if we had homeroom with our best friend and showing up on time. For college students, back-to-school means embarking on a new life chapter. From moving in to dorms to buying books, there’s an opportunity for brands to create an experience around just about everything.

Fall semester is already in full swing for many schools – and as brands know, so is the race to market to these students. The competition for the attention of the collegiate consumer is stiff; they are savvy consumers. So when your job is to get your brand into their hands in a credible way, how can you create an action plan that won’t waste time and resources? This post digs into a few tips that I’ve learned along the way.

Embrace the peer connection

We all like a peer recommendation when it comes to trying something new, and that’s true even more so for college students,, having grown up in the age of online reviews. Hiring an ambassador on campus to represent your brand is a low-cost way to give your brand credibility. A fellow student’s suggestion to try a new product will feel more natural and will resonate more, as the brand ambassador is likely to share the same wants and needs as his or her fellow students. They can also provide the brand with invaluable insight into their world, thereby illuminating what their peers are looking for.

Cultivate trust and credibility

Millennials are big on trust and brand loyalty. If you burn that bridge, they are a difficult demographic to win back. While you have to stay true to your brand, consider tailoring your message to fit the collegiate consumer. What may work for your ‘standard’ elevator pitch may be too formal or lengthy for this group.

Know when it is the right time

Many brands want to have consumers try their product at the point of sample. However, if your timing isn’t right, the engagement can be off putting. When students are rushing to class or immersed in a study session (depending on your product), it may not be the right time to spark a conversation.

Speaking of right time, here’s a few examples of events that take place in the fall.

1. Orientation week: Most schools have a week (or a weekend, at least) designated to welcoming new freshmen and returning students. These events are typically packed with students ready to engage with vendors.

2. Meet the clubs: Having a booth or table set up amongst school clubs might not sound like the most creative of activities, but it gives the opportunity to speak to thousands of students in an environment where they are prepared to listen. Just remember to keep it concise and tailored to them.

3. Student housing move-in: Dorms and student apartment complexes typically use move-in day as a chance to supply students with some essentials. They rely on donations, so here’s your chance! Make the connection with the right contacts to have your product be one of the first things they see and use when they check into their new room.

4. Purchasing books: Partnering with a campus book store to sample students as they buy/pick up their books is a great way to reach them. If you don’t have ‘feet on the street’ to sample, consider a product placement for students who order books online.

5. Greek rush: A monumental time in many college students’ lives is participating in Rush Week. While it is a memorable part of a college career, it can also be exhausting and a lot of work! Providing samples can seem like a lifesaver to these students and great way to reach them in numbers.

The start of a new semester brings waves of fresh-faced, eager students who are happy to make connections and start a new chapter in their lives. Brands can successfully leverage the excitement by meeting students with the same enthusiasm and desire to engage.


Curious for more tips on collegiate activations? Reach out to Ivy at