Thursday, December 15, 2005

Marketing to today's undergrads

The Kept-Up Academic Librarian points to 2 absolutely fascinating articles on what drives today's undergraduate market (here and here). It's amazing to me how sophisticated these spenders are, but also how reckless they can be.

The first article from BusinessWeek concerns the MySpace phenomenon and how students use online social networks to connect in the real world. Marketers are trying to get inside these potentially lucrative communities, but doing so requires new and more subtle approaches. Ads that scream "I'm trying to sell you something," won't fly, and instead have to be skillfully woven into the context of the community. Students are very keen on picking up sales pitches, and won't tolerate it.

As natural connectors, information-providers, and community builders, these online worlds would seem to be a logical fit for libraries. To some degree, this is already happening with blogs and the like, but we ought to remain aware of the fact that for our younger patrons, the virtual and real worlds are not all that separate, which should impact our marketing approaches.

The second article is all about undergraduates' conspicuous consumption habits. Students today are spending heaps of cash (well, a lot of credit anyway) on dining out, lattes, and electronics. Some may place the blame on marketers for student's penchant for consumerism, but after reading the article, it's clear that some of this trend comes from students' readily-available cash flow (a.k.a. mom and dad). In fact, lots of marketers out there are concerned with quality of life issues (for in-depth details on Quality-of-Life Marketing, see this article by Dr. Joe Sirgy). Whatever the reasons, students are clearly more savvy and demanding when it comes to consuming products and services, which we see plenty of signs of at our service points. For example, for many undergrads I've worked with, I've noticed that waiting a day or even hours for a book to become available is like waiting for an eternity. Consumption that goes on outside the library certainly impacts what we do and how we do it, as these articles show.

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