College Students – A Resilient Market
An overwhelming majority of 1,000 students surveyed by YouthStream Media Networks, a youth-focused media and marketing services company, say they are “more likely” or “just as likely” to make purchases in a wide variety of consumer goods categories during the three-month period ending in late January 2002. The study also showed a considerable change in students' outlook that may impact marketing strategies. The YouthStream survey, administered by Greenfield Online, found consistent or growing intent to make a purchase in categories including Computer Hardware and Software, (92%); Home Electronics (90%); Jewelry (86%); Concert, Theater or Event Tickets (88%); and Clothing (93%). Only about a third of the students surveyed (34%) believe that the mood of the country will impact their holiday celebration. Of that 34%, just 19% say they will spend less than they have during previous holiday seasons.
The survey also found that 40% of those responding indicated the attack on America has caused them to “reorder their priorities or change their core values” and overall optimism about the future dropped 29 percentage points after September 11. This marked attitudinal shift, as well as students' opinions on media and advertising, suggest broader implications for marketing to this demographic group, YouthStream said.
“College-age consumers have grown up during a great economic boom, and that has had a tremendous influence on their behavior,” said Dennis Roche, YouthStream COO. “At the same time, it is extremely significant that 40% of students surveyed say they are rethinking their core values. The traditional approach to this market--a focus on self-expression and personal freedom, and a raw, frivolous tone--will have to be reevaluated if advertisers want to reach students effectively.”
For example, 90% of students noted a change in the tone of advertising since September 11, especially marketers' use of patriotism to sell products. Forty four percent had a largely negative reaction to advertisers invoking the events of September 11th, with 23% saying such advertisements actually make them “somewhat” or “much” less likely to buy the products or services being advertised.
“This reinforces that strategies which work for a broader audience are often the wrong choice when trying to connect with college kids,” Roche said. “Marketers will have to be even more precise than usual with this skeptical crowd and adjust their messages accordingly. Staying in front of this market and finding out what works now is essential because this change in values won't just disappear in a month or two. Our experience suggests the brand decisions they make now will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”