By Adam Grant, CEO of Campus Commandos.
There is no shortage of events on a college campus. At the beginning of the fall semester, those events are tagged "Welcome Week." This is an opportunity for brands to showcase themselves to students coming back on campus.
Yet, when you go to these events you see a sea of sameness -- a setup that consists of a tablecloth, spin wheel and handouts like sunglasses. Why do so many companies struggle to differentiate themselves, when given a 6-by-8-foot table and two chairs?
In college, I represented 10 brands as a Student Brand Ambassador and now I am on the other side of it helping companies market products/services to college students. I make sure to attend at least one Welcome Week event each year to get in the action and never assume what worked for me in college will work now. Over this past year, I saw a lot of companies cling to what was done while I was in school.
I'm here to tell you how you can create long lines of students at Welcome Week events, whether you sell expensive products or grab-and-go goodies. The best part is, it doesn't involve additional cash.
Alter Your Messaging
Don't assume students are just going to stop by your station. What are you going to say in only a few seconds that will get students to peek up from their smartphones? If you are in a crowded category like online food ordering and delivery, call to action messaging is a credit toward your first order.
If I were to hear: "Free $5 toward (Uber Eats, GrubHub, etc.)!" and I didn't know what those services were, it wouldn't get me to stop in a couple of seconds at a crowded event. Instead, look for restaurants in the platforms that have high brand awareness and say: "Free $5 to McDonald's." That doesn't take much thought to stop.
Once you have built the line, to go into greater detail about what students need to do to get the $5. Now you bought yourself some extra time so they can take action and download the platform.
Think about what you can say out loud that will get students to stop in a few seconds and, of course, is relevant to your brand.
Think About Your Activity
Now that you have their attention with your message, make sure they engage with your space. You want them talking about you in a positive way after they stood in line.
These are some of the things you will always see at Welcome Week spaces: spin wheels, sunglasses, pens and bag toss.
Mix it up! Avoid the sea of sameness. Think about a connection that handout has to your brand to reinforce messaging. If you are a car company, you can hand out USB car chargers to reflect newer technology in the cars -- as students likely have older cars now without USB ports built in. Have your student discount written on the USB charger, something they will look at over and over.
Extend Your Reach
Since students already have their phones out, give them something to take a picture with and share online. They already engage in this activity, so use their habits to carry your message to a wider online audience. Make it Instagram worthy!
If you are a sandals company, you can have nail polish booths. Encourage students to try on sandals at a Sandal Bar and interact with a tiki-themed booth that you couldn't tell is simply contained in a 10 by 10 space. They will be excited to take a great picture of their new look.
Find out what schools your summer interns are returning to and have them work as event staff at their colleges' Welcome Weeks. Their enthusiasm regarding their experience with your brand can be contagious as they speak to their peers.
Document Your Processes
Allow your staff to easily document what is going on, so you can improve each event. That way you can measure what is working and not working. Take these five strategies into account to ensure longer lines without increasing your costs at your next college event.
Adam Grant serves as CEO of Campus Commandos, a top Youth Marketing Agency helping you market products/services to college students.