Ideal Time to Market to College Students

Market to College Students

In the era of COVID-19, companies are wondering if now is the time to market to college students? The answer is unequivocally yes! College students still need to buy products and services regardless of their school’s status. The National Retail Federation estimates that college students and families will spend a record $67.7 billion on back-to-campus alone. This works out to nearly $1,060 per family.

Market to College Students

College Students still expect to spend significant amount of money on clothing and school supplies. The purchase of electronics increased by 53 percent over last year to help deal with the requirements of e-learning.


The central messages of a campaign to college students remain important. Generation Z (or Zoomers) want to know that a brand cares about them. They like how certain brands help them now and the world in the future. Students live socially conscious lives and expect brands to behave similarly.

Brands should not ignore the current pandemic. Instead they need to acknowledge the challenges in their messaging. A brand that engages students on how their product and solution addresses the situation will have a better chance of success. The message can focus on how to improve lives or offer a distraction. Ignoring the current climate ignores the audience.


While some colleges switched to online learning, the vast majority plan to include campus-based education. Even schools like Rutgers University which elected to go predominantly online will allow students with lab requirements to go on campus. Other schools have opened dorms. Many students are living in off-campus housing near the school even if they plan to learn remotely.

We previously discussed some best practices on marketing to college students. While a few traditional tactics become less effective with social distancing many others still work. Some of the best ways to advertise to college students include:

  • Mobile – target students digitally who have spent time on a college campus this fall or last spring directly to their mobile device
  • College Newspaper Online – College news sources are being relied on more than ever to stay current with changing academic environment
  • Out-of-Home – bus shelters and billboards near off campus housing where students live. City based transit that goes through college towns and universities like Durham, NC, State College, PA and Boston, MA reach students across a community
  • E-mail – regardless of where students study, they rely on their email to communicate with professors, family, and friends, we can target them in their inbox
  • Nano-Social Influencers – students check their friends feeds to learn what they are up to

2020 presents unique challenges for the whole world. The world of marketing also feels the effects. As students need to adapt and change, brands need to reach them. The buying power of students does not disappear in a pandemic, neither should the advertisers. Meet the challenges head on and continue to market to college students.

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