To coincide with the kickoff of the NCAA football season, Facecard marketing teams will distribute informational packets on 50 college campuses around the country. The brochure, titled "Get smart. Get more," will include tips for students including budgeting and banking and how to prevent identity theft.
"Unfortunately, college students see credit cards as quick money," Constance Baker, director of marketing for Facecard parent edo Interactive, tells Marketing Daily. "[Our program] is teaching them it's not quick money. It's not even their money."
Rather than opting for a more mass-media effort, the Nashville, Tenn. company is using marketing teams. The company has also set up pages on social networking sites like Facebook. "Going through the traditional avenues like print or television advertising doesn't work with this demographic," Baker says. "I get more for my dollar if they hear about us from their peers."
With the start of the school year, banks and other credit card companies are ramping up efforts to attract new college students with enticing credit card offers. Earlier this year, the U.S. Federation of State Public Interest Groups issued a warning to college students that they were "among the most prominent targets for marketing."
"Companies use a variety of techniques, from buying lists from schools and entering into exclusive marketing arrangements with schools to marketing directly to students through the mail, over the phone, on bulletin boards and through aggressive on-campus and 'near-campus' tabling--facilitated by 'free gifts,'" read a report issued by the group. Gifts included a T-Shirt, blankets, food and discount coupons for certain products.
To combat the efforts, U.S. PIRG set up a Web site, www.truthaboutcredit.com, to educate students about the pitfalls of credit card debt and the marketing techniques used by credit card companies to lure new customers. This fall, the group will send out marketing teams of its own, hoping to get students to sign petitions about marketing practices on campuses. The teams will look and act like a regular credit card company, working for a fictional company called "Feesa" (tagline: "Free stuff now. Huge debt later") and handing out lollipops saying, "Don't be a sucker."
"It's the kind of ironic event that works well with the demographic," says Christine Lindstrom, the higher education project director for U.S. PIRG.