College students are wary of brands who don’t share their same beliefs


At YMS NYC on May 20th, Adam Grant, CEO of Campus Commandos will present how to connect with students in the most authentic way, sharing his considerable experience of the student marketing landscape in the US. We caught up with him to find out what our audience can expect from his session.

How important is the college student market in the US?

Very Important. According to the Census Bureau, the millennial population will increase in size to 75.3 million people. These 18-21 year old represent 1/4 of our US population. College is a time where students are away from mom and dad. Because of this, they are forming their own buying habits and brand preferences. Impressionable! Open!

What is the key to building brand loyalty among this demographic?

College students are wary of brands who don’t share their same beliefs and the students can sense when someone is not being honest with them. To build a following and, ultimately, the loyalty you want it’s important that college students see your messaging as honest and ethical. It can only help your brand if students view it as a positive force in their community.

What are the most important marketing channels for you?

A student’s mobile device. Internet usage on smartphones overtook that of PCs this past year.

You do a lot of work with Brand Ambassadors. What are your top tips for brands looking to build a team of ambassadors on campus?

I talk a lot about this in my blog and also at conferences such as YMS. Commit for the long haul, have a plan with realistic expectations, know your ambassadors, and reevaluate every year. For many brands, the idea of an ambassador program gets thrown around in brainstorming sessions, someone will typically take on the responsibility to test it, but ultimately fail miserably. Typically, this is because they didn't give the program enough time to mature, the managers expectations were off the mark, or they didn't buy in to treating the ambassadors like employees.

Have you got an example of a brand running a successful programme?

Red Bull comes to mind. Their team has laid out true goals, they are committed for the long haul, and they reevaluate on an annual basis to understand if they are hitting their metrics.

Tell us about your new app.

The Go Commando product is a mobile web dashboard that solves the fundamental problems in youth marketing. Our product makes it simple to place a brand’s product directly in the hands of millennials at one school or hundreds, within minutes.

Which brands or campaigns have you admired when it comes to youth marketing? Why?

We did a program for Men’s Warehouse. We maintained a laser beam of focus on the timing of a student’s suit purchase, career fair time! In the weeks leading up to a career fair our “Commandos” scheduled talks in front of student organizations. These talks involved showing students how to “put their best suit forward.” We then passed out further information with a discount. This program is a winner all the way around. We stayed relevant to students, stayed authentic to the brand, achieved an ROI, and still continue to learn what students are looking for.

What are your own experiences and challenges when it comes to marketing to young people?

I put myself through college by being a brand rep for about 10 companies. During that time, I noticed several flaws in the way the programs were managed and executed. Lack of communication, direction, and follow through by the brand eventually led to disengagement by the students who were helping on campus. It’s hard to feel like a part of the team when it seems like you are on an island. With that being said, communication with a strong foundation is the key to successfully marketing to young people.

And finally a few fun questions...
Best moment of your career so far?

Seeing people apply for positions at Campus Commandos because they hear how passionate our team members are about their work.

Worst moment of your career so far?

Taking on a client before the creation of their product. I learned that I have to play with the product before I am comfortable delivering an ROI.

Last YouTube video you watched?

Favourite app? Why?

Outside of our Go Commando App, it is MMX Racing.

Something few people know about you?

I have always wanted to race a Monster Truck...

Finally, what should we have asked you that we didn’t?

A good question might have been “What is the best way to sustain success?”

Always invest in research and development so you can ensure you are the only one who can put yourself out of business. Through continued research and development we continue to keep thinking forward. That was we can assure that our capabilities reach college students effectively.

Students are engaging with everything through their mobile device – First Mover on our Go Commando Mobile App.

Student Debt is becoming a really big issue – have printers in libraries where students can print for free in exchange for viewing some advertising.

Adam Grant, CEO of Campus Commandos will be speaking at YMS NYC on May 20th, talking about how to connect with students in the most authentic way.

Image credit: COD Newsroom