Since college students live in their own campus bubbles, corporations have struggled to target the younger demographic — until recently. A little peer pressure may just do the trick.
Consumer brands’ latest marketing technique involves hiring students as ambassadors to promote company products directly on their campuses. In addition to a paycheck, these students receive free merchandise. Some corporations, like Campusfood.com, hire teams of ambassadors to work one campus.
For a small institution like Ithaca College, these promotional strategies could have significant sway on its impressionable student body if executed well. But unlike Cornell University and other schools with Greek life, the college doesn’t have as many social events that provide mass marketing opportunities.
This could be beneficial to student ambassadors who must implement their communications skills and design creative materials. If successful, ambassadors reap the benefits in a paycheck and on their résumé. This job ranks second behind tour guides in the top ten résumé-boosting jobs for college students.
But on a campus without Greek life and strict solicitation policies, the college may actually be helping limit corporate influence. Some progressive students on campus hold strong anti-corporate sentiments and would reject an ambassador’s goal of turning their peers into loyal brand customers. The marketers breed consumerism and perpetuate the cycle of our material economy.
While gaining first-hand marketing experience is critical for students pursuing a career in this field, giving brand ambassadors free merchandise comes off as corporate bribery, rather than tools for practicing their skills.
If companies actually want to build brand loyalty among youth, they should find more organic ways to promote their values instead of hiring college students as an easy form of product placement.