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Advertising 101: how to own the student market for a day

Students are known for being a highly receptive demographic. You’ll find them in a number of key locations, online and in-person – and they’re often on the lookout for exciting new experiences. So as a brand, you can mirror their whereabouts and become front-of-mind very quickly. At native, we call this “owning the day”.

What does “the day” look like? 

Of course, every student is different – and with so many new experiences, no day is quite the same. But if we look at a standard, run-of-the-mill student weekday, there are some commonalities.

We know, for example, that the average student spends about 16.3 hours per week on campus – that is, in Students’ Union spaces, in lectures or seminars, or in other uni buildings. This rises to 25.2 hours per week for first-years. Given they’ve just arrived in a new place, with a whole fresh culture to immerse themselves in, it makes sense that you’ll see more of them around.

A significant chunk of the student day will also be spent online – specifically on social media, where students are known to spend an average of 4.8 hours per day. And Campus Media is there to nurture them through both spaces. Students are well embedded into a unique university culture, and there are many online and offline channels tied to the trusted authority of their Students’ Union.

Between online and on campus spaces, there are plenty of opportunities for you to make your introduction and build your influence as a brand.

So how can you own it?

It’s as simple as meeting students where they are, and enriching their lives in a constructive and innovative way. By building your presence on campus at key moments throughout the year – and running activity that spans multiple touchpoints – you could build a real rapport with the student market.

In reality, there are many ways you can own the day, depending on your vertical and goals. But when done right, our brand partners have built up brand awareness, created brand recognition on campus, introduced positive sentiment and acquired sign-ups, sales and long-term loyalty. All of this starts with reaching students via Campus Media they engage with day-to-day.

Here’s a quick look at how it works in practice:

While the above video gives you an idea of how our campus media works in practice, it’s also well worth taking a closer look at a day in the life of a student – let’s call him Steve – and exploring the ways that you might fit into it.

9am – the alarm goes off

First things first, Steve wakes up and reaches for his phone to turn off his alarm. Then, he starts to chip away at the 4.8 hours he’ll spend on social media today, flipping to TikTok for a morning scroll. It’s likely he won’t linger in one place – TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat are on heavy rotation for most Gen Z students, with 65% listing one of these as their favourite app. 

Steve will be digesting updates from friends, influencers – and indeed, you. 74% of students discover brands via social media, and 80% will already have hit the follow button if they’re a fan of yours. The point is, before Steve’s even sipped his morning coffee, he’ll be open to discovering new brands. This is your time to shine with an organic post or tactical ad – plant that seed via the trusted voice of their Students’ Union. 


10am – the journey into uni 

Once Steve has concluded his morning scroll, it’s time to hit the real world. Most universities have reintroduced in-person lectures, and Steve prefers it this way – according to Jisc, 42% of students enjoy on-site learning, while 45% like a mix of both. Just 13% came out of the pandemic with a preference for fully digital teaching. 

When it comes to that journey into campus, it could be a few seconds (for the 38% of students who live in halls), a few minutes (for those in nearby house shares) or a couple of hours (for the more distant house shares, and the 29% of students who live with parents and caregivers). Steve’s journey is a few minutes’ walk from his flat, which he shares with a couple of friends. 

Once he gets onto campus, his eyes are drawn to the various digital screens around uni buildings. This is where he discovers key logistical information, learns about upcoming events – and sees content from brands like yours. 

He already saw your social post this morning – and as he heads into his first lecture, an ad on a digital screen reinforces your name in his mind. 


12pm – the lunchtime lull 

With a morning of lectures under his belt, Steve meets some friends in the Students’ Union cafe. Over lunch, he checks his emails on his phone, where he spies your brand again, at the top of his inbox. You quickly become the topic of conversation between his group of friends; it’s the first time he’s said your brand’s name out loud, and after three touchpoints, he’s ready to spread the word.

As well as nurturing Steve, you’re also getting through to his friends around the lunch table. This is a particularly effective way of reaching students – 60% of them discover brands through recommendations from friends. All from one tactically-timed email! 


4pm – off to hockey

Once the uni day ends, it’s time for hockey. According to our research, around one in five students take part in uni sports. If they’re not headed to practise, there’s a good chance they will have other on-campus commitments. 46% are involved in a university society and 39% use their SU physical facilities, like the gym or bars.  

As Steve arrives at hockey practice, he’s drawn to your brand’s on-campus activation outside the entrance to the pitch. An ambassador engages with him and they have a chat about your latest release. He leaves with a voucher and a sample. 


6pm – pit stop back home 

Upon returning to his student flat, Steve opens up his hockey bag, where he finds your sample and voucher from earlier. He takes a closer look – and he’s inspired. After all, like 80% of 25-34-year-old students, Steve has been known to buy something after sampling it on campus.

This time is no different. He digs out the voucher, revisits that 12pm email for a link to your website, and makes his first purchase with you. His loyalty builds – and, voila – you successfully owned the day. 


8pm – time to socialise 

With his first purchase from you ticked off, Steve makes a quick meal and puts on his getting ready playlist – he’s going out tonight. When he’s not studying, Steve has a busy social calendar – last week, he attended a club night at the SU, and he’s heading to a comedy night next week on a second date.  

Steve is one of the 73% of students who drinks alcohol – but he’s recently been mixing up the events he attends to include some that don’t hinge on drinking. He caught a talk yesterday about Mental Health by grime legend Big Narstie, which was hosted in his SU. And this weekend, he’s taking part in The Big Freshers Wipe Out with some first-years from the hockey team. 

But tonight, Steve is headed to the Sports Ball. As he enters, he realises that the headline sponsor is your brand. He mentions that he bought from you earlier today. As the teammates enjoy the evening, your branding is front and centre – giving plenty of opportunity to nurture your new student customers in a meaningful way.  


Own Freshers 2023

Steve represents more than 2.8 million students across UK universities – and this is an example of just one way you could own the day on campus. In fact, there are so many creative ways to reach young consumers across the touchpoints they are native to. We’ve already helped Burger King, C4 Energy Drinks and Urban Eat to own the day. Now we’d love to do the same for you.

Let’s get started.