Word-of -Mouth and Blog Marketing on Campus

by Marianne Richmond on November 3, 2005

According to a new study by Alloy Marketing +Media and Harris Interactive customer evangelism and word of mouth marketing have become the most dominant form of advertising on college campuses. The study reports that 91% of college students are influenced by advertising supported by customer recommendations, but peer endorsements are an even more important factor in purchase decisions.

Students have always been a highly coveted market based on the premise that they will form loyal, long term relationships with those products that they try and buy when on their own for the first time.  Chris Whittle, currently known for the controversial but fascinating Edison Project, was really the pioneer of on campus word-of-mouth with his 13:30 sampling program created in 1970 while he was a student at the University of Knoxville. Today there are 16.5 mm college students and the college market accounts for $231 billions dollars….big, very big!

An aside, Chris Whittle is one of my all time marketing heroes. His explanation of targeting to life transistions and the trip to Knoxville for the "sampling seminar" back when I was an assistant brand manager at Gillette was one of those marketing ahha moments. His perspective on transistions sounds quite similar to Yahoo’s new Search Marketing Life Series"  which focuses on the relationship between between major life events and internet search habits in terms of opportunites for marketers and advertisers….search of course has provided the ability to refine the opportunity beyond product placement in dormitories.

The  current campus marketing strategy employs students according to a Boston Globe article, "Building a Buzz on Campus"  who "are expected to devote about 10 to 15 hours a week talking up the
products to friends, securing corporate sponsorship of campus events,
and lobbying student newspaper reporters to mention products in
articles. They also must plaster bulletin boards with posters and chalk
sidewalks — tactics known as ”guerilla marketing," which, marketing
firms acknowledge, intentionally skirt the boundaries of campus rules."

Sean Glass, of Higher One explained  at WOMA‘s Measuring Word of Mouth Conference in July that "Our belief is that students as participants have high propensity to
create and send WOMUnits, have access to many well populated online and
real world venues, and also have a high degree of influence and
credibility, thus leading to an ideal circumstance to drive consumer
action through word of mouth marketing."

So, what’s the buzz for blogs? Blogs are buzz….word-of-mouth at cyber speed; conversations, comments, trackbacks…tag, you’re it!

OK, and here are the stats according to PEW, teenagers, aka as future college students as well as a large (over 30mm) highly coveted market themselves: half of all teens and 57% of teens who use the internet are creating, posting and sharing content on blogs or the web.

PEW reports that "teens are often much more enthusiastic authors and readers of blogs
than their adult counterparts. Teen bloggers, led by older girls, are a
major part of this tech-savvy cohort. Teen bloggers are more fervent
internet users than non-bloggers and have more experience with almost
every online activity in the survey."

Further, Yahoo reports that "81% of college students rate search as their best source of
information, followed by friends and family (64%), newspaper (36%) and
TV (24%)."

So, marketers, advertisers, educators, admissions directors and departments,  fish where the fish are, blog where the bloggers are. A report released by eMarketer on Novemeber 4th and based upon interviews with subscribers to Technorati’s newsletter indicates that bloggers were most likely to trust other bloggers for inforamtion regarding a company. Of course trust is an intregal component of blogging.



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