03/18/2011 04:47 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How to Market to College Students

Every CMO with a product that targets women in their 20s wonders how to get college students to start talking about it. She dreams of having these students comment on her company's site, begging for the company to bring its products to the students' schools. She would love to have college students posting pictures of themselves with her products on their own Facebooks, thanking her for dropping by campus and asking her to come again.

Accomplishing all of the above really isn't that difficult. It involves two steps: building buzz and giving away products for free.

College students aren't that hard to figure out. With a team of over 1700 college students working with us here at Her Campus Media, we have a thorough understanding of the way that students operate.

So how do you create excitement surrounding your product and get students to literally beg you for it? Let me use one of Her Campus's current campaigns as an example.

Last year we came up with the idea for our proprietary "Campus Survival Kits." These "Survival Kits" are much like the commoditized care packages you see on the majority of college campuses today but with a few exceptions. First of all, they're exclusive (we only gave out 500 of our Spring Break Survival Kits nationwide). Secondly, they include an intriguing assortment of category-leading products. Thirdly, they come packaged in attractive, student-approved bags that students will be excited to tote around campus. Lastly, they're 100% free.

Our Spring Break Survival Kit included the following items deemed essential for spring break by Her Campus: popchips, the hot new healthy potato chip company that recently hired Ashton Kutcher as its President of Pop Culture, OPI nail polish, Softlips lip conditioner, Schick Quattro for Women disposable razors, Skintimate Raspberry Rain shave gel, Kate Spade Twirl perfume, Usher VIP cologne, Eclipse gum, and an assortment of products from British university outfitters Jack Wills.

The results were phenomenal.

We distributed the bags by hand on five college campuses, generating a huge amount of buzz that had girls rushing to get out of class to snag one of the limited number of bags in time.

Pictures of college girls with their Spring Break Survival Kits started popping up all over Facebook, as 500 college women traveled to all parts of the world on their spring break trips toting their bags and making use of the products inside. We had college students stomping down the walls of our Facebook page trying to find out how they could get a Survival Kit, and we got comments on ranging from:

"Would really love to win 1 of these awesome SB kits. With all those goodies, that would be a great pick-me-up any girl would love to have. Thanks to everyone involved in putting together an awesome goodie bag. I know a few girls I'd love to share this kit with. Love all the cool products too. Thank You!!"


"OMG! I want a Her Campus survival Kit for Spring Break!"


"Thanks for the AWESOME Spring Break kits!!! Send more next yearrrr!!! (: (:"


"these bags are awesome! I absolutely love mine and everything in it. thanks so much for doing this!!! :)"

We even got requests to bring the kits back for finals period, like this one from the University of Texas:

"Finals is the worst time of the semester for UT students! So many people camp out at the library for days and are scared to leave because the outlet that they have next to their camped out desk might get taken away. These survival kits are just what UT students need during finals to boost up morale and motivation!"

With the success of the Spring Break Survival Kit behind us, Her Campus is now excited about our next project: Spring Finals Survival Kits. Students at colleges across the country are now vying to be included in this promotion.

So follow our example. If you want students to love your brand, let them try it for free. They will remember your brand in a positive light and if they like your products, will likely pick some up the next time they're in the market for your product category.