Students support marketers that support them

A custom Uthink survey completed for Strategy two weeks ago found that university students have a very deep understanding of marketing, but still respond to efforts that give something back to society, through sponsorship, cause-related marketing, or even just a really great ad.

A custom Uthink survey completed for Strategy two weeks ago found that university students have a very deep understanding of marketing, but still respond to efforts that give something back to society, through sponsorship, cause-related marketing, or even just a really great ad.

The survey, completed using a national sample of 1,463 college and university students ages 18 to 21, asked participants to share their opinions about on-campus advertising, guerrilla marketing techniques, sponsorships, promotions and other forms of marketing communications.

The sample mirrors the disbursement of the Canadian student population in English-speaking Canada with full representation in each province (confidence interval + 3%). It represents students currently attending more than 166 top colleges and universities throughout the country. Survey design, development, IT implementation, fielding and data analysis, along with top line reporting, were completed within three working days.

Students across the country were amazingly consistent when it came to their feelings towards advertising today. There was very little variance in the proportionate numbers between male and female responses or between the provincial responses. Here are some of the key findings:

How do students feel about commercial products being advertised on campus?

* 28.5% reported having no problem with advertising on campus.

* 65.9% stated that advertising on campus is O.K. if the company gives something back to the student or the school.

* Only 5.6% of all students were totally against any form of advertising on campus.

* Students in Quebec appear to be less tolerant of on-campus advertising, although 72.2% felt that when advertisers gave something back it was O.K.

* Students in the Maritimes showed the highest tolerance of ads on campus and were the least likely to expect something in return.

* Overall, 55.5% of the students polled were more likely to support a company that offered a scholarship, versus sponsoring a school team or donating money to the school.

How do students respond to product pitches written into TV shows?

* 83.7% said they have seen product advertising written into a TV show. However most students were unable to recall the product (59%) or the show (73%).

Of the 41% of students who were able to recall products written into TV shows:

* 62% recalled a beverage pitch (91.9% recalled soft drinks in particular)

* 13% recalled a food pitch (28.8% recalled cereal, 37% chips)

* The three products recalled most often by name were: Coca-Cola (26.7%), Pepsi (23.4%) and Doritos (4.1%).

* When asked what television show they had seen the product advertised in, Friends accounted for 22% of responses, Seinfeld 17% and Survivor 9%.

How effective is in-show advertising?

Only 8.7% felt that this was an effective form of advertising, while 50.2% believe it to be somewhat effective. Just over 11% said it was not effective at all.

When it comes to worthy causes, students stand strong in support of their beliefs:

* 60.4% said that they have chosen a product because the company supports a worthy cause.

* The number one cited cause was cancer prevention and research, which accounted for 23.1% of the total responses (breast cancer accounted for just over half of that number), while animal protection (13.6%), and children’s causes (13.6%) ran a close second.

What was the product purchased in support of these causes?

* Food and drink accounted for 32.5% (Tim Hortons was named by 9.1% of the people who identified a food or drink product)

* Personal care products accounted for 23.7% (61% of those who selected a personal care product identified The Body Shop)

The best and worst ads on TV last month:

Of those who identified specific ads that they liked…

* 27% indicated some type of beer commercial – in particular, 61.9% of those chose the Molson ‘I would walk 500 miles’ spot.

* 7.8% identified soft drink commercials.

* 7.5% chose telecommunication or cell phone spots.

And for those who identified specific ads that they disliked…

* 5.1% gave a thumbs down to auto advertising in general.

* 4.6% specifically disliked Mazda’s ‘Zoom Zoom Zoom’ ads.

* 3.3% found beer commercials to be substandard in general.

* 2.6% identified Pepsi commercials, in particular the Britney Spears commercial, to be the worst on TV.

* 91.8% said that they would not purchase a product if an ad was unappealing.

Overall…

* 46.4% stated that there were no ads that suited their fancy.

* 76.4% responded that they did not buy products as a result of TV advertising.

What type of marketing makes students pull out their wallets?

* Word-of-mouth is the strongest endorsement for both male and female respondents. Overall, 40.2% of all students polled said they trusted word-of-mouth over all other forms of advertising.

* 26.8% identified free samples as being influential.

* 21.5% recognized TV advertising as having some influence.

* Among the least influential types of advertising were campus newspaper (0.6%), radio (0.6%), and billboard (0.5%).

Bonnie Lester (bonnie@studentawards.com) is VP, marketing at Uthink, a Toronto-based direct marketing and online research company.