June 8, 2016

Branding for the Student Consumer

Meghan’s Mind: Thoughts of a Millennial- Branding for the Student Consumer

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The first time I walked into Harvest, the small grocery/café on campus, I wasn’t thinking about getting Doritos and a Minute Maid Lemonade, I just expected to get whatever I liked from the options that UMass Dining presented to me.  The results consisted of a well-balanced meal, probably healthier than what I would have picked out for myself. I was in the middle of doing a million things, as most college students are, so it was nice to pick from five options based on flavor, rather than have to browse limitless brand options to find something that appeased me.

Branding on campus is much less centered around advertising, and much more about product placement and which brands the campus chooses to sell. At UMass, Harvest is a “natural foods” market, where they won’t sell Coca-Cola or Frito Lay, but they’ll sell healthier options like blue corn tortilla chips or if you’re lucky you’ll snag some Cape Cod chips. They will sell local brands, fresh produce, and other seemingly healthy products from bigger brands like Clif bars, Odwalla smoothies, etc. If I want Doritos or Tostitos, I have to go to a convenience store on campus or the campus store itself, which sells more general snack items that you would find at a 7-Eleven or CVS.

As a student consumer, brand awareness is more important on campus than at home, because there are no blatant advertisements displayed anywhere. Imagine a giant Coca-Cola billboard in front of the library. You can’t, right? That would seem out of place. Therefore, college branding is much more about where you choose to place your brands. For example, if you sell it in the convenience store in a dormitory area, you’ll have people buying larger portions, and only running in there when they’ve decided that’s what they want to eat.


However, if you can get your product into the large dining common in the campus center, or in a café on campus, then you’ll have people picking out your product as a snack with their meal. It wasn’t something that they knew they wanted to buy beforehand, but now that they have a sandwich in their hand, as they’re waiting in line to pay for it, the chips next to the cash register seem like an obvious choice. As a student consumer, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve tried different brands- most of which are healthier than those I would have picked out on my own- and it’s nice to not have to choose by brand, rather by flavor or product.

At home, I know what I want and I’m headed to the store specifically for that. For example, if I get hungry at work, I would head to the CVS near the office for a snack that I’ve already chosen in my mind before I even get to the store. The difference here is that at school, I’ll do more browsing, because I’m picking from the snacks that have been chosen for me.

Advertisements have a much bigger impact on consumers at home rather than student consumers on campus, because at school, we’ve already picked up that bag of chips before we even knew we wanted them. When we are home, if we want a particular snack, we have to go get it. So you tell me- where can your brand win over the minds of the student consumer?  Is it CVS or Harvest?

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