It’s funny how some brands dive into marketing on campus and ignore what they normally might do when readying themselves for the general market. They go in head first and too quickly without any idea of their brand health on campus. This usually happens because an overworked media planner at an agency finds out that her client wants to do a back-to-school promotion on campus three weeks before classes start. The media planner, now forced to wear a “youth marketing” hat, has to build a plan with no real understanding of how the campus bubble perceives her client and with little time to learn.
Brand health can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I like to think of it simply as the durability of your brand’s image in the minds of college students compared to the other brands you compete with. Is your product or service top of mind when a student thinks about all the choices in your category? Does your brand’s promise gel with the experience you are providing to this demographic? The answers to these questions will provide a lot of insight and help determine the sustainability of your brand over time.
Measuring perceptions of your brand before implementing your marketing strategy can cost a fortune and bury you in research if you start measuring everything right off the bat. If you are pressed for time and understaffed, try a simpler approach: Concentrate on what’s important today, and establish a baseline reading on a few key campuses off of which you can build. The important thing is to do something.
Conduct some custom research on your key campuses. Put some survey teams on the ground, or conduct the research online. Ask students about your category, about your brand, and where their affinities lay. Take what you learn, and craft your messaging around it. Keep your advertising and messaging consistent, and be on campus for the semester at least. Put in the time to build your brand on a campus. When you wrap up your campaign, go back and measure again. Is your band top of mind now? Are you viewed more favorably among students? Did your marketing work? Wouldn’t you like to know?