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Reaching college students on mobile requires innovation

Taco Bell Snapchat

Taco Bell's Beefy Crunch Burrito snap

Attracting the attention of the hands-on, mobile student is a creative task many brands struggle to connect with.

It is no surprise that college students are addicted to their mobile devices, opening up opportunities to big brands. Marketers such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Juicy Couture and HBO are taking note, and strategizing ways to appeal to the collegiate demographic.

“I think the basic principle, first of all, is that students spend more time on their mobile devices than they do literally with themselves,” said David Yarus, general manager for Mr. Youth, New York.

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“From the moment they swipe off their alarm and then start scrolling through their Instagram feed, every moment, they’re on mobile,” he said.

"In order to reach them where they spend most of their day, you have to get creative.”

Shareable content
Marketers are increasingly focusing on social campaigns. The most successful campaigns are centered on creating highly shareable content, per Matt Britton, CEO of MRY, New York.

“The No. 1 thing students are doing on their mobile devices is consuming content from Facebook and Twitter,” Mr. Britton said. “And the most effective forms of social media marketing is always creating content that’s highly shareable.

“So we’ve found that when we work with brands to create highly shareable content, and that their content succeeds in being shareable, it often results in reaching that audience on mobile devices very effectively,” he said.

“This is versus buying targeted mobile display or mobile video which often, on media sites, students don’t really spend time on. It’s really very advantageous to come up with highly shareable content — that determines whether we reach some students on mobile devices.”


From Visa's GoInSix campaign.

Go in six
Mr.Youth created the GoInSix campaign for Visa, which the company generated innovative and interesting content for the brand.

Recognizing that short, interactive media is most consumable by the target market, Mr. Youth created a series of six-second videos, and six-word stories.

“When you think about people on their phones, they’re scrolling so quickly that if you try to come up with long form content they’re not going to take time to read it or digest it,” Mr. Britton said.

“So by creating a campaign to framework around six seconds, it was very successful at becoming highly shareable and easily consumed within the mobile market,” he said.

The sweet spot
Mobile social messaging apps are an increasingly popular way for marketers to reach college students. Forty four percent of 18 -24 year-old Internet users accessed the mobile social messaging app SnapChat in December 2013, according to comScore.

The app’s popularity with this audience has attracted a number of brands, including McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Juicy Couture and HBO.

Recognizing the significant potential to engage with college students in the mobile space, Blend is a social app that takes the SnapChat business model further in terms of providing marketing opportunities. Blend lets users share their college experiences based around a daily theme to earn “likes” of their photos from other college students. The” likes” can then be redeemed for free items from a variety of brands.


From GrubHub's Snapchat campaign

Short attention spans
The challenges in mobile campaigning lies in advertising difficulties in part due to the screen format and size on mobile devices, which prevents marketers from running banner ads.

“The key is to figure out how to get new material into the core stream of content that young people are looking at,” Mr. Britton said. “The biggest challenge is creating great content that consumers are going to care about versus just forcing advertising on them by doing a media buy.”

According to Mr. Youth's Mr. Yarus, the bigger challenge lies in capturing students’ already-short attention span.

When you’re reaching out via mobile, you have your opportunity to connect and deliver that message with the flick of a finger,” Mr. Yarus said. “But students are flying through their feeds.”

He believes powerful visuals help distinguish content from monochromatic text.

“We literally have a microsecond to give them some type of content that will stick, stick out, and catch their attention,” he said.

“The disadvantage of mobile is the attention span and the time that you have to really stand out.”

Final Take

Visa’s Go In Six campaign helped the brand reach college students

Emily Mathis is a writer based out of Austin, Texas. She studies at the University of Texas, and has been published in the Daily Texan, the Texas Observer, KUT News and TexasBookFestival.org.

 
Related content: Content, college students, millennials, MRY, Mr Youth, David Yuras, Matt Britton, mobile, mobile marketing

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