Commentary

Students Rule

Students RuleAccording to the 8th annual College Explorer study from Alloy Media, the largest class in history, with 13.6 million college students (ages 18-30) arriving on campus this year brings a record $237 billion in consumer spending, up 20% since ‘07 and marking the largest jump reported since the study's inception.

Dana Markow, VP, Senior Consultant, Youth Center of Excellence, said "This year's class reveals an empowered group of consumers.  From their purchasing decisions and media consumption to their pull at the polls, this college consumer is clearly in control and showing their strength in numbers."

College students demonstrate strong commitment towards the brands they feel are contributing positively to world issues and the environment, and students' preference for brands they perceive to be socially responsible is on the rise. 41% of respondents prefer socially responsible brands, compared to the 37% reporting last year and a 24% increase since '06 figures.

 At the top of corporations high status with students, 69% expressed "donating money to a cause or charity" or "using eco-friendly or "green" business practices," 68% stated "fair labor practices," and 49% say that social messages incorporated into advertising have an effect. As the nation heads towards an important election, says the report, the survey finds a vast majority of students (9 in 10), planning to cast their presidential vote in November.

The study documented Obama's apparent rise in popularity with college students and, measurably, the wide use of the web as preferred platform to gather information about the Presidential candidates.  Candidates' presence on social networking sites became just as vital as a campus town hall and with 88% of students reporting engagement with social media. 85% claim to be "promoters", passing along and sharing information to their wide social "peer" networks.  For students who have created a social networking profile (81%), popular activities reported include posting applications, and almost 1/3 posting videos. 1 in 5 use their profile to show their support for the causes they believe in.
   
Samantha Skey, EVP, Alloy Media + Marketing, notes that "Perception of social responsibility remains critical to garnering college students' brand loyalty.  In current collegiate environment it is very cool to be ‘good'. Brands who enable college students to reflect their own social responsibility... have an advantage." commented

For 2008, the #1 choice for "Top Socially Responsible" Brand as recognized by college students in the following categories are:
  • Food/Beverage: Yoplait
  • Automotive: Toyota
  • Personal Care:  Burt's Bees   
  • Retail: Target
  • Shoes & Apparel: Nike
 
Students learn about brands and products through advertising, at 62%.
  • Providing samples consistently shows strong acceptance by students, with 97% stating they are least likely to ignore or avoid these type of ads and a record 60% stating they find this type of advertising most useful to making purchasing decisions
  • Social responsibility makes an impact here as well, with 93% stating they are less likely to ignore an ad that promotes a brands partnership with a cause
Mobility appears to be mandatory with 7 in 10 students now owning a laptop (a 67% increase in three years) with desktop ownership dropping 34% over the same period. Fully 62% of students report watching TV online.  While 26% are choosing to visit the various major networks websites, 34% are opting for You Tube, with others utilizing emerging platforms such as Veoh, Hulu, and Joost.

Skey concluded, "...  Students have come to expect 24/7 connectedness and mobility... flexibility and ease of function to socialize, communicate and be entertained, is what they're demanding. "With college students quickly and easily adopting new technologies enabling a constant desire to engage and connect, the study gives marketers more than just a glimpse into students' media behaviors, but also an essential view into finding their way in."

Read more about this study here.
 

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