Don’t abandon your college mobile marketing plans

College Student MarketingA recent study from Ball State University found that the majority of college students in the U.S. do not welcome advertising on their mobile phones. You can see the details of that study here.

The study stated that respondents’ reactions to ads on their phones were “highly negative” and that nearly 3 in 10 were less likely to buy the product after seeing an ad for it on their phone. The study also stated that college kids would be willing to view ads on their phones if they got paid to view them. The going rate? One dollar per ad. Sign me up.

The college students’ answers in this study didn’t surprise me much. College youth rarely want to admit that they are influenced by advertising and will be the first to claim that marketing tactics don’t work on them. Just watch any live youth panel at a conference where marketers are invited to pick the brains of young college kids. They will emphatically deny being swayed by anything marketers do – all this while wearing $200 sneakers and a Lacoste shirt.

Okay, yes, I may be sounding a bit presumptuous here, but I think I speak to the frustration of many marketers who see research like this and wonder if they should abandon their mobile marketing program efforts.

What this study on mobile marketing doesn’t show us is a measure of how ads influence college youth, regardless of whether or not they “like” the ads. Nor does it speak to promotions that are fed offline and initiated by the consumer (i.e., downloading an app or texting in for an offer). We must also remember that the speed of the mobile web can still be quite painful and likely discourages the majority of us from clicking on a mobile advertisement. It is my belief that ads influence and shape our behavior more than we care to admit. Because today’s youth will be the last to fess up to it, I question the value of their answers sometimes.

The stronger our love of a medium, the stronger our opinion about advertising on that medium. Our phones are sacred and personal gadgets that we hold dear. It isn’t a surprise for people (of any age) to be reluctant about seeing advertising there. We all remember how students reacted when Facebook opened up their site to anyone and advertisers. This battle is fought with every new technology that emerges.

I understand the frustration youth feel. Rarely do marketers get marketing right the first time. Typically, our foray into marketing on a new medium is an intrusive and poorly designed interruption.

With smartphone usage on the rise among college students, mobile marketing will continue. Companies need to use their own judgment when faced with discouraging research. Keep working on your mobile strategy. Remember, too, that if you are offering something of value through a mobile interaction, college youth will seek that out and give you permission. Building that trust will take time. Gaining a loyal mobile following will take patience and a bit of tire kicking.

This article has also been featured on Ypulse.

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About Jason Bakker

Jason Bakker is a native Minnesotan and has been working in the area of youth marketing for nearly a decade. He currently works with Minneapolis based Campus Media Group as the Director of Marketing and is responsible for following trends in the ever-changing landscape of youth culture and media usage, and for consulting advertising agency and national brand professionals on how to develop integrated marketing programs that reach college youth.