I love talking to college students. Throughout my career I have guest-lectured, judged class projects, and spoken on numerous panels. I enjoy these opportunities to encourage students. It’s fun to see how your personal career path can provide a map for future professionals. It is fascinating to see the world through the students’ eyes again. But best of all, I like telling students that the need for internships is a myth created by kids who have internships.
The past three semesters I have guest-lectured for an advertising campaigns class at Marquette University. In this class, the students spend a semester creating a campaign for a real client. At the end of the semester, they then present to that client. I come in for a class or two to teach the students what I can about the creative process.
This year my lesson consisted of 3 parts.
- I shared the journey of my career, from college student at the University of Wisconsin, to launching my own advertising agency, The Weaponry.
- I talked about creativity and the creative process.
- I gave the students a creative assignment that they had one week to complete.
I wanted the students to have a significant creative problem to solve. So I chose retail traffic. As you have probably heard by now, an invention called the internet makes it easy for people to buy virtually anything from their computer or smart-thingy. In fact, smart-thingy is just shorthand for an electronic device that lets you shop from bed.
As a result, people are no longer reliant on physical stores for anything. This is a major problem for retailers who have significant physical spaces. Because those stores become unprofitable and unnecessary when people stop dropping by to drop off money.
How do you get young people to shop at physical store locations?
Here is the assignment I gave 35 Marquette students:
We need to get Marquette Students, who are entering the workforce, to visit a Kohl’s physical store location, by telling them it is the best place to find their new workforce wardrobe.
The universal knee-jerk reaction to this challenge from the students was:
‘Why would I have to visit a store? It is so much easier to shop online.’
‘This is the greatest challenge facing retailers today. Your mindset is a major problem for them. Since college students represent the next great hope or the nail in the coffin for brands with significant retail locations, you hold the key to this perplexing problem.’
The Thinking Began
We gave the seven groups of five students one week to come up with their solutions. They could advertise to the student population anywhere on, or around the Marquette campus. There were no media restrictions or requirements. The ideas the student shared were both surprising and somehow obvious at the same time.
4 key takeaways from college students for retailers.
Here are the buckets of ideas we heard from the seven groups
1. Offer Me Services.
- There are a host of services that students are not getting right now that would offer real value.
- Help me understand how to dress professionally appropriate for my career.
- Help me find clothes that fit well.
- Help me coordinate, accessorize and create multiple outfits to make my money go further.
2. Help Get Me There
- The rising generation does not see transportation the way previous generations saw it. Car ownership will not be ubiquitous. It may not even be popular. To get younger shoppers to the stores you may need to actually give them a ride to the store, or help them foot the bill.
- The students had ideas like receiving UberCredits from the store when they show their college IDs.
- Retailers could advertise on the campus vans that offer students free rides around campus at night. During the day, Kohl’s could hire these vans to take student to shop at Kohl’s. Think Express route to Express
3. Find Me Where I am
- If I should be thinking about you, meet me where I am. And that’s on SnapChat. Join the story.
- Find me on campus. The students had multiple good ideas about Kohl’s showing up at places they are spending their time, like the student union, library and even bars and restaurants. To be top of mind, you may just have to show up and say hi.
- Influence the influencers. The students talked about involving the professors, staff, other students and advisors. The Kardashians may not be the only people influencing these students.
4. Get Involved
- The students had ideas for fashion shows on campus that Kohl’s could sponsor.
- At Job Fairs retailers can offer advice on how to dress for interviews and the workplace.
There are great ways to get people to visit retail locations. Personalized services and unique experiences will be key. Think about services as much or more than you think about the products you sell. Remember to fish where the fish are. Not where the old fish used to swim. You may have to coordinate or compensate the travel. This may sound weird, but it is important. It’s no longer business as usual. And the new business may feel unusual. But that’s what keeps it interesting.