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How to advertise to students: university edition

Fun fact: our founder still banks with the same company who he opened a student bank account with many moons ago!

Why’s that important?! Well, University is when the majority of students gain financial freedom from their parents – and shop in new categories, like home and utilities, for the first time. The brands that take the time to understand the student demographic, authentically align with their needs and get their marketing strategy right, will be the long term winners, building lifelong loyalty with this new customer base.

Before we get into our top tips and strategies for marketing to university students, here’s a quick recap of why the student audience is worthy of a slice of your marketing budget:

Laptop screen and hands of a person

Why market to university students?

  1. They’re open-minded and yet to form brand loyalties.
  2. University graduates will go on to earn more than their non-graduate peers.
  3. 2.66 million students have a collective spending power of £33 billion annually.
  4. Funded through Student Finance, as well as family support and part time work, students are relatively insulated from financial crises.
  5. Uni students are remarkably age stable, with the majority aged between 18-24, making them members of Gen Z.

Now you’re ready to set your brand up for success when marketing to students; here are our top 6 tips for advertising to students.

Be specific about your student segment

The UK parliament confirms there are 2.66 million students studying in the UK. Their needs, priorities and buying habits will evolve over their 3+ years studying at university. Similarly, students may reside on-campus, off-campus, or at the family home. Reaching students based on where they live will differ in terms of messaging and strategy. Campuses today are more diverse than ever, so it’s important to be specific with exactly what sub-segment(s) of students you want to reach as a first port of call.

Stand up for social causes

Gen Z has a strong sense of purpose and feels connected to important causes, from sustainability to diversity and equality. Marketing Dive reported that 69% think brands should help them achieve their goals. So, consider what causes align to your brand and proudly support them as part of your long term strategy. Gen Z students can sniff out inauthenticity from a mile off.

Students pointing at a laptop screen

Invest in campus media

Gen Z are digital natives, so your initial reaction might be to head straight to Facebook, TikTok or Instagram Ads Manager. Think again, 85% of Gen Z have engaged with OOH Ads in one way or another, from sharing on social media to downloading an app or making a purchase. At native, we’ve streamlined the student advertising marketplace, to give brands seamless access to campus media across 50+ Students’ Unions in the UK. From digital screens to Freshers Fair stalls, newsletter inclusions to display ads on Students’ Union websites. We can help you to reach students where they sleep, study and socialise. With the likes of Deliveroo, Burger King, Converse and Radio 1 on our books, learn more about our campus media and marketing services.

Build a buzz

Student communities talk. A lot. Get students talking about your brand – in a positive light – and you’ve bagged yourself some free marketing. Freshers is a great time to create a buzz around your brand, as students descend to campus for Freshers fairs and events. Go experiential in September to build brand awareness, introduce competitions to encourage engagement and capture student data, and then retarget these students at a later time to encourage purchases.

Build an ambassador network

While Gen Z are increasingly suspicious of traditional influencers, Voxburner recently reported that they’re likely to take inspiration on things to buy from micro influencers (someone with 10,000 followers or less). Identify and build your own network of student ambassadors that align with your brand to grow awareness and consideration of your products or services. This is exactly what CoppaFeel did, getting uni ambassadors dressed up as giant boobs to cost-effectively raise awareness of their main aim: giving young people a chance of surviving breast cancer by ensuring that they are diagnosed early and correctly.

Targeted student discounts and incentives

Just like email personalisation, offers that are specific to the student audience will increase your conversion rates. So, encourage students to shop with you for the first time – or nurture them into repeat customers – through personalised student discounts. Who wouldn’t want a free cheeseburger or mcflurry with their main meal, afterall!

Ready to kickstart a student advertising campaign? Drop us a line to find out how we can help!