One of the biggest mistakes professionals and agencies make when marketing to students is treating college students as a homogeneous group and not making their campaigns targeted for the best possible return on investment.
There is a tendency to view the college market as a homogeneous group among marketers and agencies, and while this niche demographic does share commonalties, they are a very diverse group and should be treated as such to enhance marketing efforts and return on investment.
Why You Should Not View the College Market as a Homogeneous Group
College Campuses Differ From One Another
There are many different types of colleges with vastly different programs and offerings. First, let’s take a look at a list of the most common types of colleges and universities:
- 4-Year Colleges
- 2-Year Colleges
- Arts Colleges
- Community Colleges
- For-Profit Colleges
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities
- Liberal Arts Colleges
- Private Colleges
- Religiously-Affiliated Colleges
- Same-Sex Colleges
- State Colleges
- Technical Colleges
Let’s look at two schools and see how they compare:
- Williams College
Type: Private Liberal Arts College
Student Population: 2,124
Percent on Financial Aid: 65%
In-State Student Residence: 13%
Students have to apply to live on campus and only seniors are allowed to apply to live off campus, all other students are required to live on campus. Not every senior who applies is granted off-campus release. See more about this policy here.
Williams College is known for being one of the top liberal arts colleges in America.
2. University of Iowa
Type: Public Research University
Student Population: 30,129
Percent on Financial Aid: 81%
In-State Student Residence: 40%
No requirements to live on campus, though the school recommends first-year students do so.
University of Iowa is known for being a top party school with a huge sports culture.
So from the information listed above, we can see that these two schools have very different student demographics, culture, and policies. Williams College attracts students from a higher socioeconomic class and from a more diverse geographical region than the University of Iowa. They also have very strict policies regarding housing which keeps the campus community very closely-connected, as does the small student population.
The University of Iowa has a much higher student population with a strong regional pool. It also has a party and sports culture, which is great for companies looking to target large crowds or have products they want to promote that are affiliated with the party or athletic scene.
As you can imagine, college marketing campaigns at these schools need be treated differently for effective results. You don’t want to run the same marketing promotion at these two schools—instead you want to cater your campaign to the individual schools’ student population or only choose the school that works best for the product or brand you are promoting. Otherwise, you risk alienating your brand from students, resulting in a lower return on investment.
In my next blog, College Marketing Mistakes Part 2, I will further exam why the college market should not be viewed as a homogeneous group. This time I will look at it from the standpoint of the diversity of the student population and show how targeted marketing will improve campaign effectiveness.