While science fiction is typically dismissed as just that—fiction—many technologies that we now take for granted were first imagined in this genre, sometimes even spurring their invention. Likewise, sci-fi visions of future college marketing strategies may soon become commonplace practices, and it always pays to be ahead of the curve.
The combination of creative imagination and at least low-level scientific expertise evinced by sci-fi readers and writers makes them especially suited to speculating about the future. In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other government agencies employ a group of sci-fi writers called SIGMA to work up various scenarios and futuristic solutions that might seem fantastic or outrageous to ordinary bureaucrats.
Using their work as a template, I’d like to advance some speculations specific to campus marketing, which could someday evolve into workable college marketing plans.
Possible Future College Marketing Strategies
The quickly advancing and promising field of nanotechnology offers some fascinating possibilities for youth marketing. One that I have seen discussed in sci-fi stories is the idea of nanotech implants that dynamically alter skin pigments to create ads upon the surface of a person’s skin—like a tattoo, but temporary. Tattoos and other forms of body art
already enjoy great popularity among college students, even with the significant downside of being inked in for life. The installation of nano-tat robots for aesthetic purposes could be made contingent on or be subsidized by a corporate agreement allowing the bots to be co-opted for college marketing purposes periodically.
The technology already exists to implement this idea, so it would just take some infrastructural changes. But if we were to create a road system wherein cars drove themselves, it would be possible to integrate advertising that far surpassed radio or billboards in terms of effectiveness. An autopilot system, interfaced through a large video display on the dash, would offer individuals a choice of two routes to their destination: a faster or more direct route (like an HOV lane) with ads playing on the screen and through the car speakers throughout the drive, or a slower, ad-free journey. College students on their way to campus could be targeted with youth advertisements, which would be pulled up based on their destination at a university.
More thoughts on the future of college marketing in Part II, later this week. In the meantime, let me know if you have any speculations as to the future college marketing strategies. I’d love to hear!
 Andrews, Arlan Sr. “SIGMA: Summing up Speculation.” Analog Science Fiction and Fact (September 2012): 38-43.