28 June 2024

University Engagement Strategies: Your FMCG Brand’s Ticket to Gen Z

University engagement strategies have become the secret weapon for FMCG brands looking to make a lasting impact on the Gen Z market. In the fast-paced world of consumer goods, capturing the attention and wallets of this digitally savvy, trend-setting generation is no small feat.  However, traditional marketing tactics often fall flat with this discerning demographic, who crave authenticity, value experiences, and drive cultural trends.

FMCG brands need to adopt a different approach to truly resonate with Gen Z, one that goes beyond flashy ads and generic messaging. This is where university engagement strategies come in. They offer a powerful toolkit for forging authentic connections, building brand awareness, and ultimately driving new consumer acquisition among UK university students.

These strategies encompass various tactics, from targeted sampling campaigns and campus activations to digital outreach and experiential marketing. Immersing your brand within the vibrant university ecosystem, you can create lasting impressions, foster brand loyalty, and drive sales.

In this blog post, we’ll explore proven university engagement strategies that can help your FMCG brand cut through the noise and reach this influential generation where they live, learn, and play.


Understanding Student Engagement: More Than Just Buying Power

While UK university students represent a significant market with considerable spending power, FMCG brands need to understand that engaging with this demographic goes beyond simple transactions. In this context, student engagement refers to creating meaningful interactions and experiences that resonate with Gen Z’s unique values and preferences.

What Makes Gen Z Students Tick?

To effectively engage with Gen Z students, it’s crucial to understand their motivations and what makes them tick. These savvy consumers know the power of their spend and will favour brands making an effort to appeal to them. With that in mind, let’s review what makes this generation tick:

  • Authenticity: Gen Z seeks out brands that align with their values and are transparent about their practices. They’re quick to spot inauthentic marketing tactics and are more likely to support companies that genuinely care about social and environmental issues.

  • Unique experiences: This generation prioritises experiences over material possessions. They’re looking for brands that offer more than just products; they want to be part of a community, participate in events, and feel connected to the brand.

  • Peer Influence: Word-of-mouth marketing and social media play a massive role in Gen Z’s decision-making process. Positive reviews, recommendations from friends, and engaging social media content can significantly impact their brand perception and purchasing behaviour.
demographics by years

The Impact of Student Engagement on FMCG Brands

When FMCG brands successfully engage with university students, they reap a multitude of benefits, such as:

  • Increased Brand Awareness: Brands can significantly increase their visibility and awareness among Gen Z consumers by participating in campus activities, offering product samples, and creating engaging content.

  • New Consumer Acquisition: Engaging experiences can attract curious students, driving initial sales and expanding the customer base.

  • Long-Term Brand Loyalty: Positive interactions with a brand during their university years can create lasting impressions that translate into long-term brand loyalty.
  • Valuable Insights: By interacting with students directly, brands can gain valuable insights into Gen Z’s preferences, behaviours, and needs, which can inform future product development and marketing strategies.

University Engagement Strategies for FMCG Brands

Let’s delve into practical university engagement strategies that FMCG brands can leverage to create meaningful connections with Gen Z students and drive brand awareness.

Building a Sense of Belonging through Student Engagement Strategies

Gen Z craves a sense of community and belonging. You can tap into this desire and create a positive association by aligning your brand with initiatives that foster inclusivity and connection.

  • Sponsor Orientation Events: Kick off the academic year with a splash by sponsoring orientation events or welcome fairs.

    Showcasing your products through engaging displays, interactive activities, or branded swag bags to make a memorable first impression on new students.

  • Support Student-Led Initiatives: Partner with student clubs and organisations to create events, workshops, or competitions that align with your brand values.

    This builds brand awareness and demonstrates your commitment to supporting student interests and passions.

  • Offer Exclusive Discounts and Promotions: Create a sense of exclusivity by offering special discounts or promotions to university students.

    This can be through a student discount program, a dedicated landing page on your website, or social media campaigns targeted towards university students.
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Active Learning and Participation: A Win-Win for Brands and Students

By supporting initiatives encouraging active learning and participation, FMCG brands can partner with students in their educational journeys.

  • Sponsor Guest Lectures or Workshops: Bring industry experts or thought leaders to share their knowledge and insights with students.

    This will add value to their academic experience and position your brand as a valuable resource and thought leader.

  • Facilitate Experiential Learning: Offer internships, mentorships, or project-based learning opportunities that give students real-world experience related to your industry.

    This can help build a talent pipeline and foster a sense of loyalty among future consumers.

  • Create Interactive Campaigns: Launch social media challenges, contests, or quizzes encouraging students to engage with your brand actively.

    This boosts brand awareness and generates valuable user-generated content that can be leveraged for future marketing efforts.

Supporting Student Well-being: A Key Student Engagement Strategy

Gen Z is increasingly prioritising mental health and well-being. By aligning your brand with initiatives supporting student wellness, you can demonstrate your commitment to their success.

  • Sponsor Wellness Programs: Partner with university health services or counselling centres to sponsor workshops, events, or resources that promote mental and physical well-being. This shows students that you care about their holistic development, not just their wallets.

  • Offer Healthy Product Options: Highlight the nutritional benefits of your products or create healthier product lines targeted explicitly towards students.

    This can help position your brand as a partner in pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

  • Provide Mental Health Resources: Develop and distribute tools or content aimed at stress management, such as relaxation techniques, study break activities, educational content to raise awareness.

This initiative reinforces your brand’s dedication to supporting students’ mental health.

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Student Engagement Strategies Through Experiential Marketing

Gen Z values experiences over material possessions, making experiential marketing a powerful tool for FMCG brands.

  • Create Interactive Brand Experiences: Offer students the opportunity to participate in unique brand experiences, such as product tastings, cooking demonstrations, or even immersive virtual reality experiences.
  • Deliver Welcome Sample Boxes: Surprise students with specially curated gift boxes filled with new products, offering a personal touch.

Partner with other brands to create the perfect student box, making the unboxing experience exciting and memorable.

This creates a positive brand association and fosters a sense of community.

  • Host Pop-Up Shops or Product Demonstrations: Bring your products directly to students through pop-up shops or interactive demonstrations on campus.

This allows them to experience your brand firsthand and interact with your products in a fun and engaging way.

Showcasing Social Responsibility: A Key to Winning Gen Z Hearts

Gen Z is a socially conscious generation that cares about sustainability, ethical sourcing, and giving back to the community. By highlighting your brand’s commitment to social responsibility, you can resonate with their values and earn their trust.

  • Support Local Causes: Partner with local charities or non-profit organisations that align with your brand’s mission and values.

    This demonstrates your commitment to the community and can help build a positive brand image among students.

  • Promote Sustainable Practices: Showcase your brand’s sustainability efforts, such as using eco-friendly packaging, reducing waste, or supporting fair trade practices.

    This appeals to Gen Z’s desire to impact the world positively.

  • Create a Social Impact Campaign: Launch a campaign encouraging students to participate in social or environmental causes.

    This will not only raise awareness but also position your brand as a force for good.

Leveraging Technology for University Engagement

Understandably, technology is pivotal in how FMCG brands can engage with university students. It offers innovative ways to connect, build relationships, and create memorable experiences that resonate with Gen Z’s tech-savvy nature.

Harnessing the Power of Social Media

Social media platforms are a goldmine for FMCG brands looking to engage with university students. By creating compelling content and fostering online communities, brands can build brand awareness, generate buzz, and drive new consumer acquisition.

  • Targeted Social Media Campaigns: Utilise platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat to create engaging campaigns that speak directly to university students.

This could involve user-generated content challenges, influencer partnerships, or interactive polls and quizzes.

  • Live Q&A Sessions and Webinars: Host virtual events where students can interact with brand representatives, ask questions, and learn more about your products.

    This builds brand awareness and fosters a sense of community and connection.

  • Social Media Contests and Giveaways: Engage students with fun contests and giveaways that allow them to win prizes or exclusive experiences.

    This can incentivise participation and generate excitement around your brand.

Virtual Engagement Opportunities

Virtual engagement has become increasingly important, especially in light of recent events. By leveraging virtual platforms, FMCG brands can connect with students beyond the physical campus and create engaging experiences that transcend geographical boundaries.

  • Online Brand Communities: Create spaces where students can connect with your brand. This could be a dedicated forum, an Instagram broadcast channel, or a Discord server.

This builds brand loyalty and encourage repeat interactions by fostering a sense of community.

  • Virtual Events and Product Launches: Host virtual events to launch new products, showcase behind-the-scenes footage, or offer exclusive experiences to students.

    This allows you to reach a wider audience and create a sense of excitement around your brand.

  • Gamification and Interactive Content: Utilise gamification elements like quizzes, challenges, and rewards to make your online content more interactive and engaging.

    This can capture students’ attention and encourage them to interact more with your brand.
dig in services ad

Conclusion: Partner with Dig In to Unlock the Power of Student Engagement

Effective university engagement strategies are crucial for FMCG brands looking to connect with the influential Gen Z market. By understanding the nuances of student engagement, leveraging technology, and creating authentic, personalised experiences, brands can build lasting relationships, drive new consumer acquisition, and foster brand loyalty among this valuable demographic.

At Dig In, we specialise in helping FMCG brands navigate the complex landscape of student marketing. Our comprehensive suite of services, from targeted sampling campaigns and campus activations to digital outreach and experiential marketing, is designed to maximise your brand’s impact on campus.

Furthermore, our curated surveys and polls enable students to share their opinions on a variety of topics, from consumer and brand preferences to current events, providing FMCG brands with invaluable insights to inform their marketing strategies.

“By engaging with students directly through surveys and polls, brands can better understand their target audience and tailor their messaging to resonate with their specific needs and desires”.

Ready to revolutionise your approach to new consumer acquisition and tap into the power of student engagement? Contact Dig In today to learn how we can help you unlock the full potential of this vibrant market and achieve your marketing goals.

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