Today's Ypulse Interview is with Marie Policastro, Manager, Partnership Marketing at Barnes & Noble College Marketing.
Ypulse Youth Marketing Mashup attendees can catch Marie and the B&N team sharing some of the best practices for brands seeking to successfully connect with college consumers (students, parents, sports fans, etc.) Below we catch a glimpse into just some of insights they will be sharing. For more, register today!
Ypulse: What are the most radical changes you've seen on campus recently?
Marie Policastro: This past year the economy experienced continued challenges as our industry underwent a significant shift. Our consumers, and students in particular, continued to pursue cost-effective buying behaviors. Beyond that, they pushed for more choices. Buying textbooks was about more than just finding the lowest price - it was about finding another way of obtaining the textbook. What this means is that the products and services being offered to students is now driven more by the students themselves than by the marketplace. As such, this year, the most radical change we witnessed was the explosion of textbook rentals onto the scene. They've become an increasingly popular choice for students. In fact, more than 90% of students said they would rent again and preferred renting from the campus bookstore over online competitors. Barnes & Noble was the first national bookseller to offer a multi-channel (in-store and online) textbook rental program. Our pilot program involving twenty-five stores was a tremendous success, and we are excited to offer our rental option to more stores this year.
One obvious but important change we've seen on campus is the growing significance of social media and marketing. Students have been utilizing the personal aspects of social networks for a few years now, but their interest and ability to interact with brands for special offers, exclusive content, or career opportunities is where the marketing value is growing.
The importance of cause marketing is consistently rising on campus. The environment, natural disasters, and personal empowerment are just a few of the causes that students are passionate about. They engage in causes they feel strongly about and remember a brand's social conscience when making purchase decisions and recommendations.
YP: What type of homework do brands have to do before approaching the college market?
MP: Brands need to have a practical understanding of campus operations before approaching the college market. The campus approval process can be a difficult one, and brands must have a solid understanding of restrictions and guidelines before launching a campaign.
It is important for brands to think first about what students want to hear and not what you want to tell them. Students know what they need and will listen if they feel like they're receiving the right message.
It's important to understand the flow of campus life and determine how to blend seamlessly before placing your brand on campus. A successful college marketing campaign is one that fits in and feels natural on campus - it needs to work with students' schedules, locations and social lives.
As a result of the economy, marketers are receiving much stronger responses from students when they offer discounts, giveaways, or career and internship opportunities tied in with their branding campaign. Students appreciate a brand that helps them save money and plan for their future.
YP: What are common mistakes brands make when attempting to connect with college students?
MP: Authenticity is key. Brands must be genuine or students will see right through it. It is really important that you craft your brand message around something students can believe in. They will smell dishonesty a mile away. Brands need to give students a reason to engage, such as student discounts, entertainment or a valuable learning experience. Students not only expect special discounts and offers, they demand it. A common mistake brands make is sending out information without asking for the student's feedback. Brands need to make it easy for students to share their thoughts and interest in a program or campaign. Finally, students want to be treated with respect and they want you to listen.
YP: What will attendees take away from the Barnes & Noble breakout session and roundtable lunch discussion at the Mashup?
MP: Attendees will learn how they can reach Gen Y through the Barnes & Noble College Marketing platform and launch a successful marketing campaign. Our college marketing platform gives brands direct, scaled access to the student population in exclusive settings.
In our breakout session, we will cover our successful partnership with Avon's youth brand, mark. This program highlights important learning's across a broad set of initiatives for marketers planning their own college marketing campaigns. Our three year relationship with mark combines an effective approach to generating brand awareness, building a student rep network on campus, creating popular student events, driving sales online and in stores, leveraging celebrity appeal (Lauren Conrad), and driving awareness for mark's philanthropic cause, m.powerment by mark.
More on Barnes & Noble College Marketing
Barnes & Noble College Marketing provides brands with direct, scaled access to college students nationwide via its college marketing platform. As the operator of over 630 campus bookstores serving nearly 4 million students, Barnes & Noble has the student understanding, campus access and proprietary touch points to ensure marketing programs deliver excellent results for its brand partners. Marketing opportunities include sampling, digital media (social networking, email and web), high-impression signage, event/experiential marketing, print media, café marketing, campus postering as well as programs targeting incoming freshmen, spring graduates, parents, alumni and football fans.
More on Marie
Marie has over a decade of experience in the marketing industry. In her current role as marketing manager for Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, she is responsible for developing strategic marketing partnerships and generating nontraditional revenue streams. Since taking on this role in 2008, she has created a proprietary marketing program for partners to reach college freshmen and their parents during the summer through print, digital media, in store, and experiential events. Marie also oversees U4U, the biannual (1,000,000 circulation) magazine written for students, by students. She reinvented the publication with a new name, design, editorial mission, and marketing strategy, and continues to supervise editorial, advertising, and production. A graduate of Rutgers University, Marie joined Barnes & Noble College Booksellers in 2004.« Return to Press