eMarketer: How would you characterize the influence mobile technology has on college students?
Issa Sawabini: The world is always in their pocket. It is as inherent a part of their life as breathing, frankly. It’s how they’re connected to the world.
They’re completely connected at all times, both from a learning standpoint and from the standpoint of the important social lessons that come with college. This is their first experience living by themselves. They are learning to live in a hypersocial environment, connected to all of their new friends, as well as having a continued connection to the people they went to high school with, all right on their phone.
The web is on their phone. The web is always with them. This is an audience that never waits for answers. If there’s a question, it’s right there. They don’t have to go to the library. They can look up anything they want.
eMarketer: What sort of mobile advertising works for college students?
Sawabini: They love great advertising because great advertising is fun and it’s additive to their experience. They don’t love getting ads forced on them. A great ad would be one that is delivered to them in a different wrapper. For example, a branded app is an ad but it doesn’t feel like an ad because it’s a fun game. A video that’s fun to watch is an ad but it’s [mostly] a video.
“This is an audience that sees so much advertising. They’re incredibly savvy.”
This is an audience that sees so much advertising. They’re incredibly savvy. They’re smart enough to know what brands they like and what brands they don’t like and they’re always looking for something to discover. So, you want to show them something new or you want to reinforce their connection to a brand. That’s where the phone really can come to life. You can now build an experience, as opposed to just pushing your message. It’s not just about impressions anymore, it’s about engagement.
eMarketer: OK, so you’ve shared what sort of advertising works with college students—humor, fun, novelty, social media, an experience with a capital E. What doesn’t work?
Sawabini: Privacy is really important. With geolocation, marketers have to ask for permission to advertise. Don’t just build an app [to have an app]. It’s not a good idea to build an app to be your website. [If] you have a website, you should build a mobile site. You build an app if you can deliver value, excitement—be additive. And, if you’re going to do an app, you better be prepared to promote it, because it’s not just magically going to pop to the top of the app store.
“[T]hey’ve been disappointed by QR Codes in the past.”
Don’t use SMS, unless you’ve got a really smart way to use it—text to win can be effective, but typically isn’t. Marketers have been jumping on QR Codes as a way to take consumers to a mobile website, and there’s been too much of that. This audience knows what QR Codes are, but [QR Codes] are not necessarily embraced because they’ve been disappointed by QR Codes in the past. If you’re going to use QR, you better do something really fantastic with it.
eMarketer: Are college-age consumers loyal customers?
Sawabini: They’re loyal to brands who understand them and they’re loyal to brands that speak their language and engage them on their level. You can see that loyalty in the behavior—increased likelihood to purchase if a brand is an active follower on Twitter or friend on Facebook.
A longer version of this interview is available to eMarketer Total Access clients only. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Total Access client, click here.
Check out today’s other articles, “As Facebook Changes, Marketers Must Follow” and “UK Consumers Prefer Direct Channels for Travel Information.”