College students standing in a line covering their faces with cut outs of chat bubbles.

The 5 W’s (and 1 H) of Marketing to College Students

Millennials are so 10 minutes ago. The new hot segment that digital marketers are focusing on? Young college students. And for good reason. By 2020, Gen Z consumers will make up 40% of the US population. So how can you add marketing to college students to your customer acquisition strategy? Here’s what you need to know:


When we talk about marketing to college students, we’re often referring to shoppers who were born in the mid-’90s to the mid-2000s, also known as Gen Z. In the US, they make up 26% of the population, and about 5 million of them are about to start college for the first time. 

A graphic showing stats about Gen Z.


In this new digital world, Gen Z has become particularly privacy-conscious. And who can blame them, with stories of big brands exploiting their information? Fifty-five percent of Gen Z want to decide what information (and how much) to share with brands. And more than ever, these tech-savvy users want to know exactly how brands use and protect consumers’ data. Brands that digitally verify consumers with SheerID can reach 235 million students in 191 countries. Enhanced security protects a company’s offer from discount abuse all over the world.

Gen Z stats about privacy.


Using gated offers to market to college students is a great way to forge a lifelong relationship with them. And despite what you may have heard, Gen Z can be just as loyal as their older counterparts. In fact, according to our shopper survey in partnership with Kelton on Gen Z, 91% of students are more likely to shop with a brand, and 94% would increase how frequently they shopped with a brand that provides an exclusive offer.

Gen Z stats on how they react to gated offers.


Marketing to college students online is one of the best ways to get their attention. Gen Z is the most digitally savvy generation of our times. Over half of them spend upwards of five hours a day on a smartphone. In general, young college students prefer hearing from brands over social media, particularly on Instagram.

A series of stats representing how Gen Z is connected digitally, with a young person surfing a smartphone.


One of the best ways to market to Gen Z college students is to use gated, exclusive offers. These are deals that target members of a specific group based on their affiliations or life stage. “Gated” refers to securing them with digital verification, which requires only a few pieces of basic information to confirm eligibility instantly. Gated, exclusive offers work well for Gen Z because they prefer deals that feel customized, allowing for control over personal data, and honor their current status (e.g. college students).

A graphic showing how Gen Z responds to gated offers.


Brands like YouTube and Spotify use this kind of exclusivity marketing to attract young consumers to their product and establish brand loyalty.

A graphic detailing how gated offers work for marketing to college students.

Ready to learn how you can win over Gen Z? Download our Marketing to Gen Z e-book now. 

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