Competition to get the attention of students is fierce, and that would still be an understatement. We’re talking 3,000 ads a day fierce, that's how much advertising your typical student sees every day. And colleges don’t have it any easier. With the sector riddled with cliches, near-identical USPs and contradicting league table, the question everyone's asking is, how do you really stand out? Take note people.

By aligning to a bigger cause (and don't forget it must be authentic), your brand can resonate with students who are telling us loud and clear they care more about the world around them, than any other generation. With that in mind, we're going to take a look at how striding toward social consciousness could be the key to getting the attention of Gen Z.

2018 was the year that American University becomes not only the first carbon-neutral university in the United States but it was also the first urban campus and the first research university to accomplish this achievement—net-zero carbon footprint.

And how do student’s feel about this bold and burgerless move? Well, in actual fact, a recent survey found an outstanding 93% of students believed that brands should take a stand on environmental issues. And 77% are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products. In addition, 82% are more likely to buy a product if it’s environmentally friendly. So with higher education being increasingly expensive and degrees being seen as an investment, it makes sense to be aligned. And we know most colleges are, so why not showcase that?

"We wanted to demonstrate leadership and innovation in addressing the serious social, economic, and environmental issues associated with global warming. Having a net zero carbon footprint reflects our commitment to acting on our values and leading into the future."

- Sylvia M. Burwell, President of American University

And as a generation of ‘plant-based’, ’free-from’ and ‘#soyanotsorry’ individuals, fighting for global justice, the burgerless campus is a celebrated move. Almost a quarter of 18-24-year-olds have turned vegan in the past year. According to a poll conducted by Gallup, vegan and vegetarian are more common among young people with 7 percent of those aged 18-29 saying they are vegetarian along with 3 percent who are vegan. Going green (and beef-free) isn’t just great for the planet, but also for connecting and engaging with this woke demographic. 

As the instrumental pillars that universities are to society, concerning themselves with global causes in today’s climate, is a given. And while it’s important to tackle these issues in a way which is unique to your brand, whether it’s with a Plastic Pledge, a drive for green energy only, or with a burger ban, sustainability is something students will get behind, regardless of the specifics, as long as it’s authentic. Need evidence? Check out this example.

"As the first university to achieve carbon neutrality, and achieving it two years ahead of schedule, American University is truly raising the bar for the country,"

- Timothy Carter, President of Second Nature

Join the conversation students are evidently passionate, take note from the likes of American University and find a way to leave your mark with your audience, without leaving it on the planet. Launch new green initiatives on your open houses and campus events and make it interactive and engaging. That way user-generated content will naturally flood in, oozing authenticity, and students and influencers can become your advocate.

If you need help getting your message out there to the student audience, get in touch.

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Article by

Eleana Davidson Native Author

Eleana Davidson

Marketing Executive