Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 4020
, Published on 21 June 2012
It’s a day of frenetic activity as usual in the Usha Pravin Gandhi College Building in Ville Parle which houses about 10 colleges including Mithibai, NM, NMIMS, etc. The main entrance of the building outside the cafeteria is always bustling with activity, but there’s something unusual today. Amongst the hustle and bustle there is a student lying on the floor with hands and face covered in black paint trying to portray a child who could not cope up with the pressure.
The body installation is a symbol of India’s education inequity which Teach for India (TFI) is trying hard to eradicate. Another peculiar thing about this whole activity is that the group of students organizing this call themselves as the “Teach for India Campus ambassadors”. Each of them is a TFI ambassador of a different college housed within that building and they represent TFI on their respective campuses.
They are trying to spread awareness about the Teach for India movement by talking to students, asking them to sign on petitions, organizing puzzles, slogan writing competitions and various other things to engage the students and spread the message of Teach for India. This activity is a part of their role as a Campus Ambassador (CA).
TFI has been using this CA program since the past 3 years with good success. The campus-outreach program adopted by TFI is not unique. Many companies globally adopt such a program to reach their Target Groups through student ambassadors or student brand managers or campus evangelists. These students are the face and voice of the brand on the campus. For TFI, the primary purpose of such a program is recruitment. A TFI CA’s job is to get more and more students to apply for the 2 year full time fellowship for TFI within their respective campus.
Nissan has a similar program called the Nissan Student Brand Manager (NSBM). Select colleges have one NSBM whose primary purpose is to build the Nissan Brand not only amongst the students within their campus but also amongst the general public through innovative marketing ideas. Such marketing campaigns are a very effective way for a brand to engage with the youth in a natural and an authentic way. Additionally such marketing campaigns will be more effective because these would be more relevant in their respective campuses.
NSBM’s are paid a monthly stipend too, apart from the reimbursement of the expenses incurred on any activities carried out as part of their job. Besides a NSBM also gets to be part of the company’s corporate marketing teams and give input to the company in terms of market feedback and brand perceptions. NSBM is considered to be a very prestigious post to get appointed to amongst the student community especially amongst the Marketing graduates.
It’s a win-win initiative for both the organizations and the students. For the companies, the brand promotion and brand buzz starts building right from the selection stage. For the 2nd edition of NSBM in 2011, the company invited applications from 450 colleges from more than 15 cities across India and received 2843 applications for 17 NSBM positions. The candidates are subjected to 3 rounds of interviews before getting selected thus elevating the perception of the brand in the minds of the applicants. It’s a fantastic employer branding opportunity for the company as well as to identify potential future employees. For the students, it represents an opportunity for them to gain great experience working alongside one of the World’s great car brands, earn additional brownie points on their CV’s and a stipend to complement their pocket money as well.
The Campus outreach program is fairly simple to understand and can be implemented by a company or an event of almost any size. But it is necessary to understand if it’s relevant to your organization and fits the purpose. It is more relevant for a company whose target groups are students and the youth. It’s necessary to identify the objective of such a program first. For some organizations the purpose maybe brand building, for some it maybe employer branding while for some it maybe sales promotion.
The logic behind it is simple, amongst the deluge of advertisements that the students today are bombarded with, if a message comes from a classmate it’s more likely to resonate. The youth are finicky about authenticity and if they like a person and if that person likes a product/service they’ll give that product a chance.
Here’s a sample model of a campus outreach program for a film promotion:
According to Ed Feller and Brad Fay, authors of the book, ‘The Face-to-Face Book’, brand building requires generating conversations. 90% of word of mouth conversations about brands take place offline. These conversations have high credibility, more willingness to share with others and an increased likelihood to purchase the product being discussed. Thus such a campus outreach program is probably one of the most cost effective ways of brand building amongst the student community by appointing student brand ambassadors to initiate a conversation.
For Redbull, the World’s largest selling energy drink, everything about the brand and the product has been intentional kept vague. Its target group is not defined by demographics but by a state of mind. Thus as the author Rob Walker puts it in his book, “Buying In”, the Red Bull brand is murky. And he says that the great thing about murky brands is they let the consumers fill in the gaps. Red Bull is intentionally reticent about its brand identity i.e what is it that makes Red Bull different, so that the consumers can supply the answers.
And the Red Bull University is one of the many ways to allow the consumers to fill the gaps. This is a 300+ network of students nationally. Red Bull appoints student brand managers and empowers them with the necessary training and tools to bring the Red Bull brand to life in the world of all things college.
These brand managers are absolutely passionate about the Red Bull brand and always on the lookout for new ways to bring the red bull experience to campus. Typically these brand managers are students who personalities match that of the brand and who know the campus like the back of their hands.
Some other companies which have a similar program in place are
Google Ambassador Program
IBM Blue Campus Ambassador Program
Wikipedia Campus Ambassador
Aircel Student Brand Ambassador
Pearson Campus Ambassador
Over the years, such campus ambassadors have started becoming a more integral part of the organization and thus seeing their roles expand as compared to earlier when Google’s Pizza program had the pizza ambassadors order pizza for hard working students.