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Target Rocks at Using Social Media and Digital Marketing to Reach College Students

Bullseye University logoTarget’s back-to-school campaign was making me feel old. I’ve been reading all of the recent articles in Internet Retailer, Ad Age, and the National Post about Target’s back-to-school Bullseye University campaign, but until today, I didn’t really get what all the fuss was about. I was starting to get worried that maybe I can’t relate to marketing campaigns for college students anymore because I’m more crazy-cat-lady now and less #YOLO. I mean, I know who Lil Bub and Grumpy Cat are, but I’d never heard of Meekakitty.

Today my marketing brain had an a-ha moment. Although I still don’t really care that Chester, Tessa, Rahat, Jenn, and Dodger are spending 90 hours together in Target’s “dorm” for a Big-Brother/Real-World-esque live stream, I have found something in the 2013 Bullseye University campaign that excites and intrigues me.

Target may be the first brand I’ve seen that is successfully engaging its customers across every major social media channel as part of one cohesive back-to-school campaign this year. And that is quite an achievement.There are other companies who are doing a good job of using social media elements this year, but Target’s customers can find consistently branded features of the Bullseye U campaign on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, on Target’s website and using Target’s mobile app. Target is even taking the campaign off-line by creating “Live Dorm Rooms” on campus at Georgia State, Texas A&M University, UCLA, Auburn, and George Mason. Students can visit the glass-walled Target-furnished dorm rooms to meet one of Target’s college aged employees, enter to win prizes, or use their mobile phones to scan QR codes on products in the room and actually buy them online from the quad. There will only be live dorm rooms on 5 campuses, but students on over 100 campuses will be able to participate in Target After Hours events- a bus will take freshman from campus to a local Target store to shop after the store’s regular closing time. The campaign appears to be working because in addition to all the media coverage, there is a flurry of activity around Bullseye U this week online. There were 1,128 people watching the live stream last time I checked. Why is it working?

Target’s Everything for U campaignWell, first thing’s first. Every good campaign needs a landing page. Target’s landing page features bright photos, college-student-friendly messaging, and quick links to college specific categories which neatly organize the 200 additional products Target has brought in for back-to-school this year. From here, you can “create your space” either by searching for your school or selecting your school colors to bring up products that are sure to show off your school spirit.

You can also access Target’s handy checklist of things every college student needs  which is also available on Target’s mobile app. You can print the checklist at home or at Target’s registry kiosk, or if that’s too old school, you can share it on Facebook or send it to friends using your smartphone.

If you don’t need a checklist, you can play with the uStyler tool instead which allows you to create a custom look for your dorm room and then share it on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, link to it from your blog, email it to your mom, or buy it all with just a couple of clicks if she’s already given you her credit card. If she hasn’t you can also add all of the items to your aforementioned checklist. Thanks Target. The only thing they might have done better is add a hashtag to the automatically generated tweet or Pinterest caption since they’re already using the hashtags #bullseyeuniversity and #bullseyeU on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

Target’s Bullseye University campaignThe only page you can’t access from Target’s main landing page is the actual livestream of the Bullseye University dorm… That seems a little odd. But all three pages are linked from the home page for the main event- the live stream of 5 YouTube celebrities living together in Target’s pseudo-dorm for 4 days.

Users who sign in can enter sweepstakes with one click or request reminders for upcoming events streamed live at at the lounge where there is a milkshake dunk tank (ew), concerts, and workouts (not kidding), or in the dorm rooms. Fans can interact with the dorm’s inhabitants using Twitter or by clicking on items in the dorm rooms to add them to their cart on without ever leaving the livestream. When you sign up on the landing page, you are officially registered at Bullseye University and receive an email informing you that over 400 prize packs and gift cards are being given away. It’s reminiscent of Best Buy’s process for accessing their 2013 student discounts, except with Target, you don’t actually have to be a verified student to sign up, so they’re not building a list of students that they can use for targeted marketing campaigns later, which seems like a missed opportunity. It makes me wonder what their ROI will be on Bullseye U this year, and how they’re going to measure it?

Now let’s see how Target’s campaign adds up.

  • Facebook? Check.
  • Instagram? Check.
  • Pinterest? Check.
  • Mobile apps and QR codes? Check, check.
  • Twitter? Double Check.
  • YouTube? Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. (that was one check for every YouTube celebrity since they all video blogged about Target at least once.)

For those keeping score at home that’s a score of 12 out of a possible 7.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I may never fully understand why so many people on Twitter care who took Chester’s phone, what ice cream flavor he’d be, or whether or not Tessa has ever played the ukulele. But I do understand why the clever marketing team at Target selected these five internet-famous folks and created a scenario that transformed them into Target’s ultimate brand advocates for a week. And I’m impressed with how well Target’s team has implemented the campaign.

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