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Forward-thinking brands are helping students (and how yours can, too)

by Cole Brennan
    Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19

    The highs and lows of Q3 for Gen Z

    Gen Z boasts a well-earned reputation for being a notoriously tricky demographic to get onyour side. So, how do you make students fall in love with your brand?...

    When it comes to making purchase decisions, Gen Zs care about both a brand’s products AND its purpose. But if your brand is not aligned with a cause don’t fret—one easy way to get started with cause marketing is by making Gen Z students your cause.


    Two-thirds of Gen Z consumers say their impression of a brand is positively impacted by its association with a social cause...BUT only 12% of these consumers have a "top of mind" association between brands they know and a social cause. There’s an obvious disconnect here.

    So how can you make sure your brand is top of mind with students? By helping students themselves, of course! Here are three ways that smart brands are giving back to their student communities.

    Smart partnerships that support career development

    Brands like Siemens, Lockheed Martin and Alcoa are not exactly what you’d picture when you conjure up a Gen Z brand in your mind. But they’re a step ahead when it comes to getting behind Gen Z-related causes, partnering with digital-textbooks-and-education-resources company Discovery Education to drive learning in fields that are directly related to their business.

    Every brand should be able to find an area in education that is relatable to its beliefs and long-term goals. Try thinking outside the box, a fashion brand that’s eco-conscious can support an environmental engineering program or initiative.

    As Discovery Education SVP Lori McFarling puts it: "Those organizations are authentically connecting their brands to efforts to support student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math, and are connecting their efforts to their pipeline and workforce-development strategies." Long story short: It's an opportunity to streamline the hiring process by helping future employees gain core skills. And since only one-third of Gen Z students think they’ll be prepared for the workforce when they graduate, we’re sure that students appreciate this helpful gesture.

    Useful tools to help Gen Z students learn life skills

    College graduates typically have a massive amount of debt and a tiny amount of financial knowledge. In fact, 81 percent of Gen Z students say money and finances keep them up at night.

    A free online budgeting application from helps solve this issue by providing beautiful charts, graphs, and lists so students can take hold of their finances. The application also has a community center with informational blog posts and videos. The College Student Financial Survival Guide is an example of a blog that provide students with useful information they can actually use. Here’s a secret: is powered by Intuit, which you would never even know unless you scroll to the bottom of their site and find the small Intuit logo. Their lack of branding and emphasis on free information encourages a positive experience with Intuit, so that if the time for paid accounting software comes, Intuit sits at the front of a customer’s mind.

    Embracing Gen Zs as brand ambassadors

    According to research published on Invesp, word-of-mouth referrals are worth about $6 trillion each year, or 13 percent of total consumer sales. And the average college campus is an environment ripe for spreading chatter about brands like wildfire—most students find themselves surrounded by other, like-minded college students, forming a microcosm of purchasing power and habit forming potential. Basically, students are some of the best word-of-mouth marketers around. So how do brands get their name spread across campuses?

    PINK runs a successful student ambassador program, focusing on giving students perks, like the ability to impact product design, in exchange for helping the brand spread the word on social. Lulus has taken the student ambassador one step further though by not only recognizing them, but also rewarding them with a scholarship. Their “Student Woman of the Year” campaign reinforces their company values by recognizing women who are supporting each other and doing phenomenal things in the process. Lulus’ ongoing scholarship programs help students chase their dreams—and as a bonus, give them a shopping stipend so they can look good (and feel confident) doing it.

    Getting involved in student causes is a win-win for brands

    Whether through a partnership, a scholarship, or just highlighting the students that are already thrilled about your brand, there’s a multitude of ways you can give college students a boost (with the added benefit of boosting your brand with them.)

      Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19


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      Think digital marketing is all it takes to reach Gen Z? Think again. Download the research report here.