Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

SA students are becoming less accepting of commercial messaging, and this new trend is forcing brands to work harder for their attention.

This same demographic is also increasingly focused on emancipating, enhancing and elevating themselves by buying experiences and creating memories.

These insights are contained in the 2017 "Student Spend Report" compiled by the youth marketing agency Student Village. It is the fifth annual edition of the authoritative report. Brands would do well to sit up and take notice, as SA’s 1m students have a combined annual spend of R32bn.

But complicating the current student-brand relationship is the state of the economy. Student Village says individual disposable spend has risen only slightly, from R2,702/month to R2,714/month. Marc Kornberger, founding director of Student Village, says: "This doesn’t factor in inflation, and so the money students are spending is worth less."

According to the study, 2017 shows a dramatic focus on what marketers refer to as brand "Me". Students now perceive and use brands to support their personal brand by putting themselves first and then positioning brands to support who they are.

To support their lifestyle ideals, students are doing whatever it takes to make money, giving rise to the "gig economy", from doing promotions to being a DJ at their local hangouts.

Students are also treating credit as a means to build their rating. Two out of three students have a retail card or credit card and use their credit facility as a back-up. Online shopping has increased, and clothing, travel and electronics are the top purchases.

In terms of loyalty to banking brands, Capitec scored 30%, Standard Bank 23%, Absa 20%, FNB 18% and Nedbank 12%.

Students appear to be more financially savvy, with only 29% wanting to know more about saving in 2017, compared with 61% in 2015. Female students are more conservative spenders than males in terms of their spending priorities.

A second new study, by the global consumer engagement agency ICLP, reveals that marketers who want to tap into the potential of millennials as brand advocates now need to map out tightly integrated solutions and drive commitment by understanding their characteristics, buying behaviours, purchasing decisions and customer experience.

The agency says key to driving devoted customer relationships is building trust with existing and potential customers.

ICLP says millennials are browsers, not buyers, spending five to 10 hours a day consuming a copious amount of online content, and acting promptly on social media to comment on or share a promotion.

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