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Research from Riddle & Bloom Helps Brands Engage Gen Z During the Pandemic

By Kylie Kinder & Henry Lichtblau

Editor’s Note: The world has 235 million college students, and in the US alone they have $574 billion in spending power. To help brands market to them, we invited Kylie Kinder, Senior Client Services Manager, and Henry Lichtblau, Vice President of Client Solutions at Riddle & Bloom, to share insights their company gained from their recent survey. 

You can learn more about how to engage college students in Riddle & Bloom’s student report, and in our Back-to-School Report 2020.

This fall, college students have taken everything—from their peer communities to their school activities to their shopping habits—online.

In a survey of over 1,000 current college students in the US and Canada, Riddle & Bloom sought to understand how students are navigating their new normal and what this means for brands that want to engage them.

Students Remain Connected

We found that despite widespread adoption of hybrid and remote learning models, school communities are alive and well. More than half (61%) of students still live on or near campus. And over three-quarters of students reported that feeling a sense of community has been more important to them in 2020, relying on friends (91%), social and digital communities (67%), and their university student groups and activities (66%) to find it.

Tips for Marketing to Students

The best way for a brand to engage Gen Z students during COVID-19 is to:

  • Leverage peer and community access: 87% of respondents said they would be likely to try a brand or product if a friend recommended it.
  • Embrace (student-specific) incentives: 84% of respondents would try a product that came with a student discount, slightly more than would do so with a generic coupon code (76%).
  • Foreground direct personal experiences: 79% of students reported that a sample or free trial would prompt them to give a new brand or product a shot.

When’s the best time to do this? To hear the students tell it, the time is now.

Survey respondents reported they are currently browsing more (55%), purchasing more frequently (53%), and spending more money (46%) online than they did before COVID-19.

Want to dive deeper into how Gen Z students are navigating their new normal and how they want to interact with brands? Check out Riddle & Bloom’s report here.

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Kylie Kinder is a Senior Client Services Manager at Riddle & Bloom, where she has worked with clients such as LaCroix, Microsoft, and Warner Brothers to deliver high-touch marketing programs targeting Millennial and Gen Z consumers. Kylie was previously a Presidential Fellow at her alma mater, Wake Forest University.

Henry Lichtblau is Vice President, Client Solutions at Riddle & Bloom. He leads new business, delivering Millennial and Gen Z access and engagement for Fortune 500 brands. Previously, Henry was an Account Director at the Blue State Digital marketing agency (WPP) and worked in strategy consulting at Monitor Group (Deloitte).

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