Using Survey Research to Understand Your College Audience

Answer me this: would you go rock climbing without learning how to rock climb first, researching the right equipment to use, or finding the best places to go for beginners? “Probably not,” you’re thinking to yourself. So, why would you launch a marketing campaign without trying to understand your target audience? 

Just as proper preparation is important for any new adventure–especially potentially life-threatening ones–conducting research to understand your target audience is essential to launching a successful marketing campaign. 

Maybe your life isn’t on the line like it would be rock climbing with no prior preparation, but valuable budget resources may be. It does not matter whether the campaign you are aiming to run is digital or in-person. Laying the groundwork you need to target an audience in a way that resonates is in everyone’s best interest, you just need a little forethought to get there. 

For the college audience, research surveys and focus groups that reach students in various majors, social groups, and regions can give you the background required to meet their needs, while also advertising your product or service effectively. 

At Newbridge Marketing Group, our 16 years of experience in college marketing have taught us a thing or two about college students. We research and work with students on a regular basis. We bring existing knowledge to the table when brands work with us, and as such, always recommend that brands consider running a survey ahead of a campaign. Whether it be their own completely personalized survey, or the inclusion of a few questions in our larger quarterly surveys, any bit of information is useful as you prepare. 

For brands that go on to run campaigns with us, especially Campus Brand Manager programs, we tap into our massive student network to gain valuable, primary insights from students for our brand partners. This helps to paint the full picture of a brand’s place on college campuses.

To give you a taste of how survey research can be most useful when you ask the right questions, here are a few of our favorite data points from previous surveys. We use these metrics and more brand-specific data to help our current partners navigate the college audience and successfully plan and execute campaigns that cater to student preference and positive reception: 

  • When asked “what’s the best way for brands to market to you?” 54% of students indicated social media (The State of Gen Z, 2021). Data points like this one help us guide brands towards methods of communication best received by students.
  • 40% of students are somewhat or greatly influenced by large influencers (>100,000 followers), but 71% are somewhat or highly likely to purchase a product or service if a friend or peer promotes it (The State of Gen Z, 2021). This further emphasizes the value of Campus Brand Manager programs, and methods of communication via peer networks, when attempting to reach the college market.
  • 40% of students say that trying a product/sampling is one of the best forms of marketing to drive a purchase decision of a product they haven’t bought before (Mobile Selling and Fall Campus Engagement, 2020). This emphasizes the continued value of physical sampling, in a world where so much focus has gone digital.
  • 84% of students are more likely to purchase a product after being handed a coupon on campus (Healthy Products & Lifestyle Survey, 2019), emphasizing both the value of in-person interaction to create brand awareness and the importance of a coupon or discount for the college audience.

In 2021, we’ve already executed two surveys that have given us and our partners insights on the thoughts and plans of Gen Z as we move into Summer, and what is looking to be an increasingly normal semester in the Fall (The State of Gen Z Survey, and the Gen Z Mental, Physical and Personal Health Survey). We’re currently accepting questions for our Q3 and Q4 surveys, which will look to answer questions related to future careers, expectations around brand marketing, and trend predictions for the year to come. 

Information is power, especially in a world where consumers and Gen Z are increasingly looking to brands to understand them, and their top-of-mind social values and expectations. The more you as a brand can work to understand the college population, the better. We want to help you do exactly that. 

If you’re interested in participating in these surveys or running a brand-specific survey of your own, utilizing our database of 70,000 students, contact us at