Campus events are a way to get your brand in front of students and showcase your style, voice, and values. Capturing the attention of students at an event is difficult, but with the right swag and positioning, you’ll get a moment of their time, and hopefully a positive lasting brand image. If you want to wow students, take time to be thoughtful about the quality and usefulness of your swag items, utilize clever messaging and celebrity clout, and listen to what they have to say about what they want from events.
As students tend to be eco-conscious and more minimalist in their possessions (remember, they’re living in tight quarters), moving past cheap plastic filler swag will set you apart from other presenters. If you choose useful, practical items, you’ll have a better chance of your swag surviving past the garbage can at the student center. Here are a few items that fit the bill:
Tech accessories such as portable chargers and power banks, cell phone cases, microfiber cleaning cloths for screens, and power adapters or even higher-ticket items such as bluetooth speakers for giveaways are the kinds of promotional products that will grab attention. Make sure whatever you pick has a quality, well-made look and feel.
One word of warning, though: USB flash drives are out. With the number of cloud storage options available and security concerns, it’s best to stay away from portable memory devices.
Whether it’s trips home, semesters abroad, or summer vacations, college students travel often. Travel accessories as your event marketing swag are not only unique, but also practical. Luggage tags, bag markers, cord organizers for multiple charging cords, and reusable water bottles—particularly stainless steel, vacuum insulated tumblers or bottles with a screw top—are perfect for students.
Whatever you pick, make sure it can hold up to rough treatment; luggage gets thrown around, and items in a backpack will shift. Luggage tags that fall off before they get to baggage claim are frustrating and not the impression you want for your brand.
Notebooks might seem too old school for young adults who are used to using devices for everything, but more people are taking more non-digital notes than you’d think. With the popularity of bullet journaling and the tactile satisfaction of putting a pen to paper, a quality notebook will be useful during and after an event.
Other study helpers beyond notebooks include small stationary sets that can be easily stashed in a backpack, highlighter sets, and even items such as fidget spinners or small, hand-held tangle puzzles to relieve stress or boredom during lectures.
Shirts can be a hit or ho-hum. Pick the right design and material, and you’ll have a hot item that everyone will want. Yes, young adults will wear branded shirts around campus, their dorm rooms, and around town.
The key is moving beyond just your brand. Incorporate your brand voice and humor into a clever shirt that students will want to wear after the event. Make sure your design is clean, fun, and that your message is funny, not offensive.
Quality matters when it comes to shirts. Don’t skimp on a thin shirt that will rip or fade after a couple washes at the laundromat. Soft shirts with vibrant, lasting colors have a better chance of staying out of the donation bin or becoming a yardwork or painting t-shirt.
But, apparel is more than just t-shirts. One of the most popular items at many events are branded hats. But don’t forget about tote bags and reusable shopping bags (for eco-conscious shoppers), beanies, and even scarves.
A big name draws a crowd, and using the audience and recognition of a local celebrity or influencer will elevate your brand and identify your company as an organization that can keep up with changing culture. After all, if you’re at a college event, that exactly the message you’ll want to send.
Research the culture on campus and who is plugged into it. Once you’ve identified a good collaborator, use social media channels, video, and other messaging to make a memorable appearance that is fresh, fun, and engaging.
Influencers work because they make a brand or product relatable. Local celebrities have a small but loyal following with fans who are willing to make purchases based on recommendations and targeted messaging. This is also an opportunity to experiment and have fun connecting with students who are looking for brands that recognize their unique challenges and aspirations.
If you aren’t familiar with the campus culture or are new to college students and their needs more generally, take some time to ask them what they want. If there’s a freebie involved—for instance, food—students will be happy to offer up their opinions and give you valuable insight.
The extra expense you’ll take on with a survey will be more than made up by not buying promotional items that they aren’t going to want or use, attending events that aren’t relevant, or launching a campaign that doesn’t speak to their needs.
When it comes to representing your brand on campus, quality is key. Rather than purchasing a large number of cheap items, think about what students in this generation value: quality, practicality, and clever or engaging messaging. Lean on local influencers and take some time to learn the campus culture before you dive in. With a little effort on your parts college students will be valuable early adopters and brand advocates for you for years to come.