P&G, Timberland, Target Invest In College Market


Hoping to stimulate sales after a disappointing back-to-school season, Target is throwing in-store parties for college students. From coast to coast, they are busing in students, hiring DJs, and creating as much social vibe as a retail store can conjure. Target spokesperson Leah Guimond tells Marketplace Target hopes to “build relationships with these students over the years, as they evolve into different life stages of getting married and having babies and growing with us.”

Building an early relationship with consumers is a smart long-term strategy. As Forbes reports, Procter & Gamble has given students control of their brand in order to create brand ambassadors on college campuses.

The ReadyU program is part of P&G’s move to dabble in new types of marketing, including online retailing and sports sponsorships. Now, at universities, it’s letting go of its tight grip on brand messaging and allowing students to craft pitches.

P&G saw some risk in putting their brands in the hands of others, but is happy with the outcome and expanding the program.

Timberland, also eager to connect with college students, is using a more conventional approach that entails outdoor and mobile. After taking a tough hit on second quarter earnings, the brand is aggressively pursuing campus dwellers. Like Target, Timberland is going after Boston, a city with the nation’s highest concentration of college students. The campaign combines tram and station advertising with iPhone apps. Timberland, which recently expanded its offerings, is in the fight of its life and is going to need to convert as many brand believers as possible.

In today’s tight economy, winning young consumers is good for the bottom line and an investment in the future.