What Teenagers Really Think of Your Marketing – 2012 TeensTALK Takeaways

Every summer STAMATS hosts a TeensTALK panel featuring 15 graduated high-school seniors who reflect on their college decision making process and what college marketing tactics resonated with them most. Some of the student responses were shocking such as, “don’t advertise on Facebook” while others seemed a bit more common sense “when you send us 100 emails (or repeat the same emails) you look desperate.”

In case you missed the talk, Higher Ed Live has a recording of it below, or you can save yourself some time and digest our 5 key takeaways.


1. Use Unique Materials that Stand Out

When the students were asked “what really got your attention” they tended to agree that a mailing piece that was unique, fancy, or counter-intuitive (such as the Drake University D+ campaign) really stood out. Yet, they also agreed that although receiving something unique can get their attention, if the fit wasn’t there, ultimately, there was no real impact.

2. Showcase Careers and Results Oriented Student Stories

While standing out is important, it’s equally important to eventually show the students successful young alumni stories. High School students wanted to know what percentage of students get jobs after graduating, and furthermore, what percentage of students got jobs in their intended fields. While school rankings were deemed semi-important by the students, they were less concerned about a ranking # and more concerned about getting a job after graduation.

3. Keep Text Short and To The Point

Some students reported receiving “letters” from schools with paragraphs of texts which they admittedly never read. “The only words I ever read were congratulations and accepted or we’re sorry” said one student. While they were okay with reading a few sentences, the materials should also include pictures or links to websites for more detailed information.

4. Personalize Messaging and Relationships with Students

One thing all the students agreed on was the mass e-mailing schools do is not a great way to build a relationship with a student. Schools that do this “look desperate” and sometimes they would receive messages that weren’t relevant to them. (ie, reminders to apply after they have already applied). About a third of the panelists said that they would opt-in to Facebook or text alerts for a school that they are interested in, but were turned off by schools that called them multiple times via phone.

5. Be Authentic

My favorite part of the whole panel was that the students just wanted colleges to “be real”. They didn’t want to see stock photography of multi-cultural students sitting on a college green. They didn’t want to see “corporate-speak” messaging from Deans, they wanted to connect with current students, admissions offices, and faculty to learn about the real college experience.

Millennials are highly skeptical of advertising. In order to get their attention you must be unique, you must be succinct, and you must back it up with results. Sound like a daunting task? Perhaps.

  • Cathy Cole

    While all the rest of the seminars were very well put together and helpful to marketers at all stages of their careers, this panel provided by far the most insight in what works, what doesn’t and how to reach our target — students. And the best part was that it came from students themselves and with no holds barred. 

    • http://blog.inigral.com/?utm_source=Social&utm_medium=Blog&utm_campaign=Commenting Brandon Croke

      Thanks for sharing Cathy! The event continues to be a hit, I only wish colleges asked students for their feedback throughout the entire collegiate process. One step at a time though!