If you didn’t know and live under a rock, Natives hosted our annual event Think Student Live this week. More than 200 student specialist marketers from 130 different institutions all came together for one day only, to forget everything they thought they knew, and be schooled by a whole roster of marketing experts on how to engage the student audience the right way. If you missed it this year, learn from your mistakes and pre-register for 2020 today.

Quite frankly, there’s enough insights and inspiration that came from the day that we could fill up a whole whitepaper of takeaways. But instead, we’ve narrowed it down to our favourite seven.

Working with Study Tubers to create an authentic education brand

Kicking off the show was the number 1 student social influencer in the UK, Eve Cornwell. Eve shared her insights into what content works for her as the UK’s most engaging Study Tuber in what is a rapidly growing market.

In what would set the tone for the whole day, Eve showed that demonstrating authenticity and vulnerability would resonate with the student audience. Creating content that matters to you, will really cut through, as the savvy Gen Z audience will recognise and be inspired by your genuine passion.

This isn’t something new… Being an authentic education brand has been one of our calls to arms from way back in 2015, but Eve really got us all inspired and reminded us how important authenticity is to today’s student audience.

Eve also revealed that collaborating with student influencers and utilising user-generated content is often an incredibly effective way of harnessing that authenticity in campaigns. With 17% of 11-16 year olds wanting to be a social media influencer when they grow up, outranking teacher and veterinarian, it's clear to see Gen Z'ers value influencers in a big way, and to ignore influencer's potential of engagement and reach, is a sure way to get left behind. 

Bear Grylls Back Away

How to set about overhauling your brand

Next up was Douglas Washburn from the Swedish Institute, sharing with us how he led on a project to overhaul the Study in Sweden brand. A massive global project like this… Douglas, we salute you.

But there were some fab insights, including how critical great research is so that you get the data you need to break through and challenge assumptions. And having a great research partner helps fend off any data meltdowns (we’re all human) because they know what to look for.  

Douglas shared how having a coherent strategy to communicate with (and defend the brand against) all stakeholders was key to a major rebrand project such as this. They got it spot on and have that blue and yellow flag flying high.  

Using insights to drive media performance

33% of every hour spent by students online is used to watch videos. How do we know this? Because Tom Setter from Natives presented just a quick snapshot reveal of our very own Student Media Insights Survey, the industry’s leading data source into the channels student use, how they use them, and why.

There were so many useful insights here, including the importance of long term brand development rather than relying on the short term fix of short term tactics, and how entering Clearing is increasingly becoming an active choice and strategies to maximise the opportunities that this creates.


How to use video to engage with Gen Z

Ross Doyle from YouTube then hit the stage and described the mindset of the Gen Z audience as ‘stressed and woke’. However, 70% of Gen Zer's feel more connected with others when watching Youtube videos, as well as leaving them feeling more prepared for the future. Demonstrating that Youtube and videos can be a brilliant tool in engaging with this distressed generation.

Speaking from one of the biggest student youth brands and platforms, Ross also dived into their new funnel approach; see-think-do-care, which is aligned with our own evolution of advertising concept. And the trick to telling a story on YouTube using the release, amplify and echo model (Go on, give that a Google).

Rounding off on the ever popular big reveal of the latest beta products that their trusted Google Premier Partners have been trialling and are effective when reaching and engaging students, which certainly got the crowd talking.

Don’t treat students as just another market

Next up was a perfect reminder from Louise Hallworth and Leeds University Union about how betrayed and disengaged Gen Z feel by society, how distrustful they feel towards brands, and how education institutions can start building trust again.

There were some fantastic takeaway case studies from how LUU use student-generated content and social media takeovers. Not forgetting the huge reminder to never be these guys...

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want

The most interactive segment of the day was the diverse panel of students brought together to form the Student Hut Opinion Panel Live, and we got to hear from the most important stakeholders in the room about what they actually want and need. I think everyone there would say this was such a highlight…

So how do we sum it up? Open days are still key, and a single bad experience can deter an application. Not a single panellist reads newspapers, with one 6th year medical student candidly sharing; "I will only reach for print if I can’t find any wrapping paper.”

We’ve been saying it for ages, but capturing data is such an essential part of any marketing recruitment strategy, and 100% of the panel confirmed that they had signed up to be contacted before they applied (but do work on your comms and be memorable, only 30% remembered receiving a single email).

All of the panel continued the theme of the day and extolled the virtues of authenticity and that they wanted to hear from actual students during their application process, oh and one last thing. RIP emojis. 

Creating a story engine to tell your story

Rounding off the day was Pete Durant from Endemol Shine, the creative lead on a fantastic range of campaigns for hit TV shows for BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

With an outstanding GIF game and enough hot pink to make Edurank blush, Pete closed the show with some excellent strategic and practical tips for creating content, including the framework he uses himself.

Pete also revealed some scary statistics, such as the average person scrolls on their phones 90 metres a day and that it takes 13 milliseconds for someone to engage emotionally with an image.

And that simply isn’t even scratching the surface of what came to light at this year’s brilliant Think Student Live. But if you want to make sure you’re there next year then you can pre-register here as trust us, it’s only going to get better.


Photos Courtesy of Chloe Hashemi.

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Article by

Eleana Davidson Native Author

Eleana Davidson

Marketing Executive