Marketers are paying closer attention to the more than 19 million United States college students—a so-called millennial sub-set—when considering viable purchasing audiences. No surprise, the group will have strong purchasing power and, once they graduate, are expected to surpass their non-college millennial peers in earning and spending power for many years into the future, according to a recent eMarketer report entitled, “US College Students 101: Updating Fundamental Acts About This Diverse, Digital Cohort.”

According to Student Monitor, college students receive their information concerning products and services in a variety of ways; however, word-of-mouth is their preferred choice, by far, wrote The October 2014 Student Monitor survey asked for student preferences in the media by which they learn about products and services. Ads in campus or national newspapers, printed catalogs, and information on a company’s Facebook page were mentioned but 9 percent or less of the students surveyed. Options receiving more than 10 percent were:

  • Word of mouth: 48 percent
  • Internet advertising: 39 percent
  • Television advertising: 31 percent
  • In-store free samples: 29 percent
  • Internet information: 21 percent
  • Email with information: 21 percent
  • Online product reviews: 18 percent
  • Radio advertisement: 17 percent
  • Free gift with purchase: 16 percent
  • Free sample on campus: 16 percent
  • Magazine advertising: 14 percent

College students, and consumers in general, have also discovered an array of social networks and mobile messaging services in addition to Facebook; Facebook is still the social venue of choice and where college students are likeliest to learn about brands, according to a July 2014 survey by The survey (conducted via Facebook) revealed that 86.2 percent of U.S. college students said they followed brands on the social network. Instagram (owned by Facebook) came in second at 43.3 percent, according to Smartphones and tablets are also heavily used, especially for research; however, a July 2014 survey for the National Retail Federation revealed that many students indicated that they would not be using their smartphones or tablets for research or purchase of back-to-school products, pointed out.

With students fully taking advantage of mobile technology, brands see mobile as a successful way in which to reach the student audience with ads, indicated. Ball State University research conducted in April 2014 was summarized by Michael Hanley, advertising professor and director of the university’s Institute for Mobile Media Research, who said that, “research continues to show young people are annoyed by mobile ads. About 65 percent of students report receiving mobile ads, and 70 percent of them don’t like it.”

The bottom line is that, advertising, by any delivery, is only one of the many influences of student purchasing decisions, and remains low on their list of importance. Meanwhile, an August 2014 Fluent study revealed that peer opinion and money-saving offers topped the lists of college student purchasing influencers.


How College Students Connect (or Don’t) with Brands, eMarketer. January 23, 2015.