Author: Louise Millar, Strategy Director

The pandemic disrupted campus culture but 2022 is the perfect time for brands to reintroduce themselves. Louise Millar, Seed' senior creative strategist of Seed, explores the opportunities…

Despite general consistency with the youth market, the student segment has its own established subculture with nuance and distinctiveness. With over 2.3M students in the UK alone, it’s worth paying attention to them. They live and socialise together making targeting highly efficient and effective. The pandemic stifled a lot of infrastructure and rites of passage for students and like a lot of the population, they’re very much ready to say YES making it the perfect time for brands to reintroduce themselves and start delivering clear benefits.


From mindset to time availability, student priorities change as the academic year progresses and this needs to be carefully considered to create a year round strategy. Fresher’s period is a pivotal moment when students are refining priorities as they embrace their first taste of independence. At this stage, there’s a hunger for excitement and by using a multi channel approach with experiences at the core, brands can demonstrate their understanding of student needs and values. If this messaging is right, brands can establish relationships going far beyond university years. There’s the potential for a big return on investment: Over 66% of students have bought into a new brand in the first three months of university.

Comparatively in term two, habits, relationships and routine have been established. Building conversations through peer to peer relationships is invaluable, allowing for brand presence in everyday student moments. Term three sees students facing their biggest pressures and they’re much more likely to positively react to brands that offer relief through quick activations that support and reward with instant gratification. The most effective brand solutions offer value without asking for something in return. Alternatively, give students the chance to end the year on a high with euphoric experiences to celebrate the end of exams and start the summer strong.


Students want a better future and are very aware that they have a personal responsibility through their actions to do so. However, they’re also savvy and understand they have their own limitations - they don’t want to feel preached to but will favour brands with a wider positive impact. They want to balance enjoyment and convenience but are notoriously cautious spenders. Brands that can help them save money whilst making responsible purchases will be incredibly popular. Free trials, rewards and low investment value exchanges are great ways to engage with them.

Peer-to-peer reigns supreme True across the youth market but remarkably relevant in the student arena, peer-to-peer recommendations are one of the most potent methods to keep brands front of mind. 78% of Seed’s student network said that a recommendation from a friend was the number one influencing factor in their recent purchase decisions. Students’ lives revolve around university and campus activity and therefore there’s power in the people that are prevalent there. By forming a brand community with the right people, there’s consistency in messaging that can be adjusted with direct feedback from the target audience.


University is supposed to be one of the best times in a young person’s life. Despite the desire for a valuable qualification, they want to have fun! It’s a time for identity experimentation, giving new interests a go and forming long lasting relationships. Offering one-off experiences or those that allow them to try or learn something new, gives them the chance to make memories with brands playing a central role. Or at the most fundamental level, give them a little brightener to enhance their day to day. Everyone loves ice cream on a sunny day!