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A brand’s guide to winter: student marketing edition

As Gen Z fave Taylor Swift would say, Tis the damn season… here, we take you on a whistle-stop tour of all the winter marketing moments dominating the student calendar over the next few months. Wrap up warm!

two people celebrate the festive season


The big one 

Black Friday is, of course, the big one to watch. We know that Gen Z students are big fans – our own research shows that 62% care about Black Friday, with 60% saving their pennies to get involved. The chances are, they’ve likely already started on this one – signing up to mailing lists, creating TikTok wishlists and allocating their spend. 

As much as it’s a major shopping event, Black Friday has become just as notable with Gen Zs as an opportunity to pause for thought and rethink how they consume. Aligned with this are brands like Gen Z favourite Lucy and Yak, who previously used the shopping holiday to highlight causes and efforts close to their hearts. The clothing retailer (famous for its patterned dungarees and ethical supply chains) has committed half of its profits to Fior Di Loto, a girls’ education foundation in Northwest India.


Don’t neglect the day that always precedes Black Friday – Thanksgiving. The US holiday may be best popularised to us Brits by that infamous friends scene, in which Rachel creates meat trifle. But to the UK’s 23,000 US students, it’s a day with a lot more meaning – and worth acknowledging if your vertical calls for it. As was the case for Green Giant, who tapped into the viral star “Corn Kid” last year to help put the “giving” back into “Thanksgiving”. The kid really took TikTok by storm the first time round – so this was a savvy partnership on Green Giant’s part



Beyond Black Friday 

Yes, Black Friday may be the biggest shopping event on the planet. But it’s certainly not the only student spending moment of the winter months. Remember, students get the majority of their income in termly loan drops – in September, January and April, respectively. So make sure you reserve some of your marketing energy – and spend – for the start of 2024.

two students attend a Christmas market

Can’t wait until then? Tap into that festive excitement by involving yourself in a local Festive Market, or create a buzz around the Boxing Day Sales (67% of Gen Zs shop in them, more so than any other demographic). Or, create the vibe yourself in your advertising – as modelled by Bicester Village in this festive-flavoured TikTok ad. We love! 



@bicestervillage 📌The Village is our favourite place…​ ​When are you next planning to visit? Comment below👇 #bicestervillage #favouriteplace #christmascountdown ♬ original sound - Ctess68

There’s also another key Friday to bear in mind – Mad Friday, on 15 December, when students across the country will hit the bars, pubs and clubs for one last hurrah before Christmas. It’s notoriously the busiest day for UK bars, so if you’re in the sector – or adjacent to it – it’s a good one to earmark.

As a reminder, students will head back to uni at the start of January – which means their shopping lists will be full of those essential items needed to live independently. From FMCG to big-ticket items like hoovers, TVs and more, the January Sales are a great opportunity for them to stock up – and you to be present. 


Identity shapers

The winter months in the UK have their own unique identity – with Christmas, New Year and January renewal governing the season culturally. But on campus, with such a diverse mix of students, life can look a little different. It’s important to be conscious of other events that students might be marking or celebrating. 

Hanukkah begins on the 7 December this year, and finishes on the 15 – for Jewish students, this is a major religious period, marked by socialising and gifting. And while followers of the Roman calendar will welcome in the New Year at midnight on December 31, Buddhist students will celebrate Mahayana New Year – this year, it falls on 25 January. 

Students browsing a phone

Beyond religion, there are a wealth of cultural moments designed to bring people together or raise awareness. International Human Rights Day will fall on 10 December this year, and will no doubt create pause for thought on campuses in these tumultuous times. World Braille Day creates awareness every year for the writing system used by 30,000 people across the UK. And poetry and whiskey are in order for Burns Night on January 25 – a chance for the 60% of Scottish students at Scottish unis to share a little part of their culture with those from outside the country. 


2024 is calling… 

January brings a sense of renewal on campus. For students, it means new money, a new term, and a new sense of purpose. Veganuary and Dry January kick off this month, as well as myriad other new year’s resolutions: 89% of Gen Z students make one, according to our research. Both are great opportunities if you’re in the wonderful world of food and beverages. This – a vegan meat alternative brand – held a “funeral” for bacon last Veganuary, which helped to launch not only their new pigless product, but their brand as an icon in young plant-based people. And Lucky Saint became ubiquitous in pubs and fridges by becoming the “official beer” of Dry Jan, keeping the pints pouring with a tantalising (but still teetotal) OOH campaign.

Of course, some January activities are choices, while others are mandatory. Many students will have exams waiting for them back at university – so make sure you’re reflecting that in your comms. It’s a great chance to purport yourself as that “little treat” they need to get through it – and aside from that, it’s just useful to know where to find students during this time. Many will be in the library or on campus revising. 

Housing, too, has its January moment – it’s the second-most-popular time for students to be looking for a place to live in their next academic year.One of the best things you can do as a housing brand is hit campus head-on with some in-person marketing; housing is, after all, a deeply personal experience for students. X1 Sales and Lettings really benefited from this when they attended the Liverpool John Moores open day event in November.

A group of students at Refreshers

But the biggest thing for you to be aware of during January is Refreshers. With Students’ Unions rekindling their Freshers activity for a new year, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get involved in campus activities – from stalls to sponsorships, and much more. This is a great option if you missed out on Freshers activity, or even if you did make an appearance back in first term, and want to keep your name alive on campus. 

This is just a snapshot of winter on campus. Get the full Student Marketing Calendar today, and find out which events are unmissable for your brand.