How brands should communicate with students in 2021

The guys at PrettyGreen wanted to find out more about the reality of University life for students during lockdown. So during the first term of 2020 they were in regular contact with 30 Freshers from 10 universities to find out what their needs were and where brands needed to fit in.

The ‘class of 2020’ have, so far, had an overwhelmingly different experience from every previous intake in the history of student kind, resulting in some shifts brands should bear in mind:

1. University has gone from daunting to distressing
From a lack of contact with other students and lecturers to tech issues, counter-intuitive websites and endless emails – students can find even day-to-day academia stressful.

2. Bedroom’s a base, like never before
Whilst the bedroom has always been a base and part-time work space, it is now far more multi-purpose. We estimate that Freshers have trebled the quantity of waking hours spent in their bedrooms, due to additional work and virtual socialising. Considering that their rooms may be as little as 6.5m sq, space and freedom have become common daydreams and students are desperate for a change of scene.

3. Socialising is a constant struggle
All of the students we spoke to felt disappointment at the limitations brought about by Covid 19, and for many this is the defining characteristic of their uni experience so far. Wider research on this topic indicates that up to 40% of students could be experiencing ‘episodes of depression’ as a direct result.

4. Love is what they need
Students are seeking comfort blankets and reminders of home and reassurance like never before. Almost a quarter of those we spoke to want time with their pet and a further fifth wished for a simple hug from someone at home. For Freshers, the limitations on socialising, attending lectures and getting to know their new towns and cities is resulting in an inability to settle.

Optimism reigns in spite of it all
Around half of the students we spoke to were able to talk positively about their university experience. These optimists told us they “try not to think about what should have been” and are simply attempting to make the best of their situation.

How brands can help
We have always stood by a philosophy that the role of brands in people’s lives is to serve. It may seem obvious, but with so much marketing casting brands as heroes, and overthinking our comms message, consumers’ needs can get lost.

Written by Jo Hudson, planning director at PR agency PrettyGreen. To read more about a Chelsea FC/Three Mobile case study, please click here.