Do you remember moving into the dorms your freshman year? For me, it took about a gazillion trips up and down the elevators in order to get all of my stuff moved in, with only my parents to help. Lucky for Lelia Ismail, her freshman move-in experience at the University of North Carolina was a little bit easier. Why? Ismail had a team of upperclassmen who were all dressed in identical American Eagle Outfitters clothes to help her move in to her dorm room.
Wait a second: isn’t college about finding your own identity and expressing yourself as an individual? Why would these upperclassmen all be wearing the exact same thing? Because they are “campus evangelists” for the popular teen clothing store.
A new trend among companies that want to advertise to college students is hiring other college students to do the dirty work for them, in a much more organic feeling method of advertising. This allows advertisers to create brand awareness and possibly even brand loyalty among college students.
“I’ll probably always remember it,” said Ismail of her experience with the American Eagle campus evangelists.
There are many companies that are employing this form of marketing on college campuses, including everyone from Red Bull to Hewlett-Packard PCs to Target. The method behind the madness is that nobody knows college students – and how to reach them – better than other college students.
“We are the people who understand what kinds of things the students will be open to,” said Alex Stegall, an American Eagle evangelist. “It’s marketing for the students, by the students.”
At my school, the University of Oklahoma, it is not at all uncommon to see a group of students passing out free cans of Red Bull during all hours of the day, and even more so during finals exams time. There is also often a campus evangelist somewhere on campus giving demonstrations on his new Apple products, such as the new iPad or the iPhone. Personally, I love all of the free caffeine and the low-key atmosphere where I can test out new products.
Does your school have any type of on-campus marketing activities that target college students? Do you like them or find them annoying? Tell us about it in the comments section below.