It’s hard to believe that it was over three months ago, on the eve of the nationwide lockdown, that Seed ran a research piece, asking students around the UK about their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours at the start of what has now become a prolonged and global crisis. With the lockdown easing and society slowly starting to re-inhabit the outdoor world, we wanted to find out how they were feeling about their time in lockdown and the prospect of returning to a new normal. What we discovered was surprising in a number of ways…
Here are five things that brands should know about students right now.
1. They are struggling with isolation and a perceived lack of leadership
The number one thing that students have struggled with during lockdown is a lack of social contact, with 76% students ranking this in their top three lockdown struggles. They are also feeling a lack of leadership from institutions with 70% believing that the government has dealt with the crisis very poorly and another 40% believing the same of universities. This lack of faith in leadership has added to the stress and uncertainty of the situation, leaving 41% of students struggling with mental health during this period.
“Boris is an idiot and universities are parasites”.
*“My mental health has declined rapidly since lockdown began - I rely on my friends to make me feel better and not being allowed to see them has had a huge effect on me”.
With more time for quiet reflection, 60% of students now feel that they are more in touch with the things that really matter to them in their lives. They’re also feeling more positive about a range of big topics such as the environment (65%), which is likely down to newsfeed stories about nature making a comeback while human society was on pause (during lockdown Instagram has by far been students’ favoured channel for information and inspiration). After a time when many have been living back at home, it’s nice to hear that over 43% are feeling more positive about their family relationships.
And they’re not just feeling more positive, they have also taken up a range of positive new behaviours, with the implementation of personal exercise routines leading the list and possibly contributing to the 15% of students who feel that their self-esteem has improved during this period. They have also been rediscovering reading and cooking for pleasure, doing arts and crafts and learning new skills.
“Jogging, baking more bread (hasn’t everyone been?), and I’ve been trying veggie alternatives too which has been insightful”.
“I have been riding my bike a lot more throughout the latter part of lockdown and it has really impacted my mood in a positive way.”
3. On the whole lockdown will leave them in a positive financial position and they will spend behind desire
Lockdown has given 39% of students the time needed to feel more in control of their finances and to bring their spending in line. Without the ongoing costs of socialising, shopping, snacking etc. coupled with the fact that many students have been living back at home, over two thirds of students now believe that they’ll be better off (40%) or in the same financial position (26%) after lockdown. It also seems that they are keen to use that extra cash on the things that they have missed most during lockdown with 46% looking forward to splashing out on things such as socialising, travel, personal treatments, big events, clothes and treats.
4. They want to interact with brands on campus
During lockdown a third of students have been engaging with brands more than usual, with brands making them feel entertained, connected and informed. Brands that have adapted their marketing to be more specifically relevant to this audience and to look cool and interesting are far more likely to have cut through the increased commercial traffic on social channels. Those who’ve failed to do this have possibly contributed to the 35% of students who feel that brands have bombarded them during lockdown. Despite this, 79% of students are actively wanting to engage with brands during the freshers period in September/ October this year and following a prolonged period of isolation, students are slightly more likely to want to interact with brands in real life (77%) than they do online (74%). University campuses provide a rare opportunity to do this in an environment in which most students (77%) will feel a high level of social comfort at this point in time. At the same time student micro influencers and bespoke digital experiences provide an excellent way of cutting through end engaging students in their everyday lives.
5. Students largely want the same things from brands
Despite the Covid crisis and the impact it’s having on students, interestingly, helping to solve this crisis is not the number one role which students want brands to play right now.
Students’ top desired role for brands is to help them save money (77%) through special deals and discounts, followed by helping to protect the environment (68%). The types of tangible interaction that students most want to be having with brands at the moment are centred around entertainment, unique experiences, providing practical help and inspiration.
It’s clear that time in lockdown, increased uncertainty and a lack of faith in leadership has extended the role for brands in the lives of students and the current opportunity to engage them in a meaningful way. While these are just a few of the key insights from a much bigger research piece they clearly hint at the shift in students’ concerns, needs, desires and behaviours, which in turn affect the opportunity for brands to play a supporting and important role in their lives. For a full presentation of the report please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or, to see how to apply some of these insights at freshers this year, check out our recent webinar here, (Password: 6n*1@79t).
To find out more about how your brand can win with students in the new normal at freshers 2020, drop us an email (email@example.com) – we’d love to have a chat.