Spring Break: Ignore At Your Own Risk

Mention the words “spring break” to marketers, and many turn up their noses, conjuring images of girls gone wild and underage drinking. Don’t let all the hype fool you. The overwhelming majority of these kids are acting responsibly and creating the memories of a lifetime. So catch them while you can, because once they hit their 20s, this group becomes more elusive than Mary-Kate and Ashley, until they settle down and become parents. By then, they’ve had plenty of time to pick a favorite shampoo, decide whether to become a Mac or a PC and buy a hybrid car.

So, speak to them. But make sure you do it right. They have the highest tolerance for invasion of privacy than any generation before them. They are savvy enough to know that marketers are tracking their digital journey and expect this information to be used to customize content around their needs. But, these connections have to be done correctly, or brands will get spanked in public. As easily as this group shares their lives with their 10,000 BFFs and “like” everything from rock bands to nail polish, they’re equally as quick to trash the brands that miss the mark.



This lesson is especially important if you’re planning to ask them to pay attention to you when they’re playing at Spring Break, surrounded by their peers and hungry for something to talk about.  They all want to go home with a great story, so here are some tips on how to insert your brand into their highlight reel:

  • Make it relevant. Give them something they can do or use right now, even if they won’t need you until later. The Army National Guard used a giant, inflatable obstacle course to draw in Spring Breakers. They collected their information for later, knowing a hard-sell on the beach would get lost in the sand.
  • Make it mobile. They leave their hotel rooms with just two things: their key and their phone. This generation’s definition of “double fisting” is to have a beverage in one hand and their cell in the other. They can check in, tweet, post, like and share without spilling a drop.  Don’t show up at Spring Break without a mobile strategy.
  • Make some noise. The more disruptive, edgy, or unusual, the better. This is not the place to bring your run-of-the-mill mall tour. This is the Super Bowl of millennial marketing, the SXSW of college.  Go big or go home.
  • Make them the center of attention. According to MRI Doublebase2011, 45% of Millennials who consider themselves to be leaders like to be, duh, the center of attention. For Spring Break marketers, that means activations should be all about “me, me, me.” Secret did a “get spotted” campaign by distributing tattoos at the hotels. If the girls were caught wearing the tattoos at the night clubs, they won cool prizes on the spot.
  • Make it trendy. Hotness is a powerful influencer for this group. If your brand takes advantage of an emerging trend, you’re golden. Need help picking a hot trend?  Work with an agency who is tapped into this segment, because getting it wrong could get you booted from the highlights reel into the out-takes trailer.
  • Make it meaningful. Millennials believe that they can make a difference in the world, even during Spring Break. So, even when they’re having fun, brands can cut through the clutter with messaging and experiences that give them a sense of purpose. Why not give them a real reason to reuse their bath towel at the hotel?  Hang up your towel, take a pic and upload. For every post, Environmentally Conscientious Brand X will donate Y to Z. Idea still available upon request.  Any takers?
3 comments about "Spring Break: Ignore At Your Own Risk ".
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  1. Eric Hoover from Spinnaker Beach Promotions, November 20, 2012 at 3:15 p.m.

    As someone who has been involved with spring break promotions for nearly 20 years, the stigma that the media has put on SB is unjust in so many ways. Yes, college students are letting off some steam, yes, many are drinking, but in the end, 99.9% of them are just looking for a responsible good time in the sun with friends, old and new.

    Each and every March I have brands come down to check on their activations and 100% of the time, they will say, "I really thought the kids were going to be a little crazier".

    Spring break is a is true opportunity where marketers can enhance the college students sb experience and reap the long term rewards of brand loyalty from it. These kids are looking for things to do and free entertainment/ games/ samples has become part of the college spring break phenomenon. Ask them what they think about your product and be prepared for a well versed discussion on how "they feel" it impacts and enhances their lives or reasons to the contrary.

    It seems the sheer numbers of college students heading down to Panama City Beach, FL (#1 College Spring Break Destination) scares brands from initiating a spring break program. It's not always the largest programs that make the biggest impact on todays college student!

  2. Jeff Miller from Brand Connections, November 26, 2012 at 5:16 p.m.

    Another interesting point about spring break marketing is that this is not only a great way to engage college students but to also engage young adult consumers as they are on the verge of leaving college and venturing into the ‘real world’. Did you know that 75% of college spring breakers are seniors and will be graduating three months after their spring break trip?* Spring break is the final place to reach all these elusive consumers at one event & frame of mind before they venture to the next stages of their life. This is a very important nugget of info for brands to consider when thinking about young adult and college marketing programs as brand choices made at this life-stage, by these consumers, stick with them until their next major life event such as marriage or having kids. This is truly the last time to reach your Next Gen consumer en masse before they graduate and spread out into the working world.

    *Spring Break: Pulling the Student Market 2011-Journal of Tourism Insights

  3. Larry Ramona from Socket Events, December 5, 2012 at 12:04 p.m.

    Spring Break presents brands with the most unique (and affordable) opportunity to reach college students from campuses nationwide at a central congregation point. Not to mention the ability to make meaningful connections and engage these influential consumers on their terms and in a relevant way.

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