Corporate Eye

Brand Messages Must Connect with College Students Faster Than Ever

A study conducted by CourseSmart of U.S. college students who own mobile devices reveals some important insights to brands who are trying to market to this fast-moving audience.

According to the study, 93% of the survey respondents own a laptop and 47% own a smartphone. Just 7% own and ereader and another 7% own an iPad. Of course, iPad sales are expected to double in 2012, so these numbers are likely to look completely different a year from now. However, the data in the study will be no less valuable to brands.

The study included 18-25 year olds, and 84% of the audience claimed that they use two or more mobile devices at the same time while simultaneously watching television. For example, a student might be doing homework on a laptop, texting with a friend on her mobile phone, and watching television — all at the same time. Specifically, the breakdown of responses follows (via eMarketer):

  • 36% use a mobile phone and laptop while watching television.
  • 25% use a mobile phone, laptop, and iPad while watching television.
  • 19% use a mobile phone, laptop, iPad, and more while watching television.
  • 17% use a mobile phone while watching television.
  • 3% use no devices while watching television.

Clearly, these students will make excellent multi-taskers when they enter the workforce! All joking aside, there is an important takeaway for brand marketers that can be gleaned from this data. It is extremely difficult to cut through the existing noise and clutter surrounding U.S. college students who own mobile devices. They choose the majority of this noise and clutter, so brands have a challenge in front of them. Stealing a snippet of time from this audience away from the many messages they are bombarded with continually by choice is a monumental task. And it’s very likely that these study results are the same for college students in other countries as well.

Therefore, brands have to create marketing campaigns that capture the attention and cut through the noise instantly. Furthermore, this is an audience that knows brands are trying to sell something to them, and they have no patience for the slow-build up or veiled messages. Get to the point and deliver your best message first! The audience will decide if they like what your best message is, but they won’t stick around to listen to you talk about how great your brand is with the hope that your ultimate message will be worth the wait. By the time you get your message out, they’ve already moved on to a third, fourth, or fifth device, activity, and conversation.

Image: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.