Inside the Lens of a College Student and How to Market Towards Them

Dec 22, 2023

Amy and Jessica were thrilled when they opened their new bubble tea shop just steps away from a bustling college campus last year. They even hired college students as part-time staff.

They realized that the typical ads and marketing methods weren’t cutting it for this demographic. To truly connect with college students and have them buzzing about their business, they needed to get inside the lens of how this audience sees the world.

Capturing the attention and loyalty of Gen Z and students required that they hire college students to genuinely understand modern student perspectives and priorities.

The lessons Amy and Jessica learned after finally cracking the college code illustrate why taking this audience-centric approach is essential. By embracing key values of sustainability, reimagining campus marketing by collaborating with top students, generating hype on social media, the bubble tea shop went from a ghost town to a packed hang-out spot overnight.

Their success demonstrates that college marketing and university marketing directly to college students is indeed difficult but extremely rewarding for brands able to resonate authentically with who they are.

Inside the Mind of a College Student

College students represent an enormously valuable target market, wielding over $200 billion in annual spending power. However, effectively marketing to them poses unique challenges.

Unlike previous generations, today’s Gen Z students have grown up saturated by digital content and advertisements, requiring tailored college marketing approaches. They easily tune out overly salesy or generic messaging. This is a discerning, distracted, and cash-strapped demographic.

Before brands can successfully market products to college students, they must first understand what makes this audience unique. Modern students have perspectives, priorities, and patterns of behavior that set them apart from other demographics.

Examining a few key characteristics provides critical insights for effective Gen Z marketing and resonating messaging.

Transitional Time — Gaining Independence, Exploring Interests, Building Habits

The college years represent a pivotal transitional period. Whether fresh out of high school or returning to education later in life, students are embarking on an intellectual and personal journey outside the direct supervision of parents or guardians.

They are gaining real independence for the first time, determining their own class schedules, social activities, lifestyle choices, and financial spending. Simultaneously, the university setting enables dynamic exploration of potential careers, relationships, and self-identity.

Students also cement critical habits during this time, from study techniques to brand loyalty. Recognizing the fluidity and freedom central to the student experience allows marketers to make connections based on their evolving passions. University marketing should speak to this transitional life stage.

Always Connected — Mobile Devices, Social Media, Messaging Apps Dominate Communication

Unlike previous generations, current college students are “always on” — perpetually connected to mobile devices, social media, and messaging apps.

These digital platforms govern all aspects of a student’s daily life, serving as both social squares for hanging out with friends and indispensable tools for organizing hectic academic schedules.

Students not only consume tremendous amounts of content across their screens, but also broadcast details of their own lives.

They turn to these networks to explore interests, find information, make purchases, and communicate instantaneously. Savvy marketers meet modern youth where they already live online.

Price Conscious But Want Experiences — Limited Budgets But Seek Entertainment, Travel, uSocial Life

The college lifestyle comes with major financial limitations. Most students rely on partial support from parents or loans while scraping to make ends meet with part-time jobs. They budget diligently for necessities like food and have little expendable income.

However, despite tight finances, students crave participation in experiential activities with friends. They devote discretionary funds to dining out, attending events, traveling on breaks, and enjoying their vibrant social scene.

Students seek affordable access to these entertainment options, membership deals, restaurant offers, and discounted travel. Brands able to provide such value-driven experiences on a student budget stand out.

Passionate About Causes — Care About Social Justice, Sustainability, Mental Health

Today’s university students are a purpose-driven bunch, striving to make the world better.

Major societal issues resonate strongly with them, shaping buying decisions and brand affiliations. For example, students champion equality, from racial justice to LGBTQ+ rights. They want businesses to help advance economic mobility and access to education.

Protecting mental health and cementing self-care routines also rank high among their concerns. Furthermore, environmental sustainability weighs heavily, as students desire green products and ethical company practices.

Communicating shared values and showcasing concrete commitments to students’ causes of choice cultivates authentic connections.

Marketing Strategies Geared Towards College Students

Armed with insights about modern student perspectives, marketers can deploy targeted tactics to reach this demographic where they are.

College-tailored campaigns should embed brands within students’ daily spheres, both on campus and online. The key lies in adding value with discounts and content while leveraging influencer marketing — To do that, you can hire college students as influencers.

Various strategic approaches meet young Gen Z adults in their natural habitats and speak to their unique mindset. Student marketing campaigns should deploy tactics to reach this group where they are.

Meet Them Where They Are — Campus Events, Student Hangouts, Social Media

Effectively catching students’ attention starts with entering their physical and digital worlds. Brands can hire college students as on-campus brand ambassadors or event staff to help promote products and further student connections face-to-face. Dime has an exclusive database for you to find those college students/ Gen Z to achieve your marketing goals.

Brands should tap into the college lifestyle by sponsoring relevant events, distributing merchandise at popular campus spots, and hanging signage in much-trafficked locations. Consider initiating an on-campus college ambassador program to further student connections.

Beyond the quads and halls, marketers must establish an online presence on key social platforms and emerging community apps. Check out how Dime does it on their Instagram to engage directly with the campus community and young Gen Z creators/ influencers.

Optimizing engagement opportunities by intersecting with academic activities and social interactions is critical. So when you hire college students it helps you with insider perspectives on these worlds.

Offer Discounts And Free Trials — Hook Interest When Funds Are Tight

Outreach efforts should provide special incentives that overcome budget limitations.

Students with little disposable income don’t spend freely, especially on unfamiliar or premium-priced offerings.

However, exclusive student deals, such as percentage discounts or free product samples, justify trial and purchase. Even time-limited free access goes a long way towards hooking initial interest during the college years.

Generous bargains capture attention, seed organic buzz, and convert cash-conscious students into loyal future patrons. If you have a student discount/ fr

ee trial for your brand, make sure to promote it on Dime where there is over 30,000 active ongoing college students/ Gen Z traffic!

Use Student Ambassadors — Peer Recommendations Carry Weight

Among Gen Z college students, word-of-mouth referrals and peer validation hold enormous influence.

Rather than listening to broad corporate messaging, students look to their circle of campus friends and respected social media connections for opinions. As such, brands should cultivate student brand ambassadors to promote products as insiders.

Companies can hire college students as social media brand ambassadors to authentically promote products across student networks online. Services like Dime connect brands with pre-vetted student ambassador networks across college campuses.

Dime provides brands access to their ambassador network of over 30,000 diverse, creative college students across 35+ top universities. These passionate Gen Z supporters receive giveaways and discounts to aid sharing marketing content across student social circles both online and through hosted campus events.

Dime’s authentic ambassador partnerships stem from their exclusive community’s backgrounds, skills, and existing networks that enable multidimensional connections.

Equipping passionate supporters with giveaways and discounts for sharing across student networks sparks organic adoption. The resonance of a personal recommendation from someone enrolled at the same university proves more convincing than generic advertisements.

Sponsor Relevant Events — Tap Into College Lifestyle Moments

College life follows a seasonal cadence, punctuated by major happenings that dominate student attention. This presents opportunities to hire college students as brand representatives during big seasonal events.

For example, branding dorm move-in kits, entering float contests for homecoming parades, advertising in big football game day programs, handing out midterm study survival packs, or offering graduation ticket giveaways all make savvy impressions.

There exist countless touchpoints tied to academics, jobs, breaks, clubs, causes, and other campus occurrences which temporarily consume students. So if you can hire college students as brand reps, it allows you to leverage these moments.

Prioritize Mobile Optimization — Phones Are Central In Daily Life

Given the previously discussed reality of being perpetually plugged in, brands must optimize for mobile when engaging college students. Responsively designed emails, ads, informational sites, and e-commerce platforms constitute must-haves for university marketing.

Today’s youth spend inordinate amounts of time-consuming media on phones while on the move. Ensuring flawless functionality, quick load times, and easily digestible layouts for small screens facilitates seamless brand interactions.

Students appreciate when convenience factors dominate, allowing effortless access anywhere. Mobile-first is the only viable strategy for consistently holding mindshare.

Pack In Visual Content — Infographics, Videos, Photos Appeal More Than Text

Plain text fails to stimulate the modern student’s ultra-short attention span, especially on small devices. Verbose descriptions prompt tune-out, no matter how compelling the words.

For increased resonance, brands should incorporate snappy visual content that communicates quickly. Short videos, brief slide decks, bold infographics, and eye-catching photography content best summarize value propositions.

Students skim through passages in academic journal articles daily, meaning brands must condense complex messaging into creative visuals. When relevant and thought-provoking, such graphic content earns applause.


Marketing to the college demographic undoubtedly poses unique challenges. However, those who make the effort to genuinely understand modern students’ perspectives and priorities can discover enormous value.

Businesses willing to hire college students as brand ambassadors possess an advantage in marketing efforts. Students can share discounts, organize events, manage social campaigns, provide creative direction, and lend insider perspectives to help brands genuinely connect with this audience.

Secure Your Brand's Future With Dime

At Dime, we understand the importance of investing in brand loyalty early on. By building a long-lasting relationship with Generation Z, you can secure future sustainability for your brand.
Let Dime help you connect with the next generation and invest in your brand's future.

Secure Your Brand's Future With Dime

At Dime, we understand the importance of investing in brand loyalty early on. By building a long-lasting relationship with Generation Z, you can secure future sustainability for your brand.
Let Dime help you connect with the next generation and invest in your brand's future.

Secure Your Brand's Future With Dime

At Dime, we understand the importance of investing in brand loyalty early on. By building a long-lasting relationship with Generation Z, you can secure future sustainability for your brand.
Let Dime help you connect with the next generation and invest in your brand's future.

© 2023 by Dime, Inc.

Marketing solution for Gen-z. Reach young generation using top students ambassadors.

© 2023 by Dime, Inc.

Marketing solution for Gen-z. Reach young generation using top students ambassadors.

© 2023 by Dime, Inc.

Marketing solution for Gen-z. Reach young generation using top students ambassadors.