ISSUE #26 | THE PIE REVIEW | 9
JUST AS EDUCATION marketers were
getting to grips with the demands of millen-nials,
a pivotal new generation of diverse young
consumers burst onto the scene and are rapidly replacing
their predecessors across campuses worldwide.
Generation Z is dominating post-secondary education in
terms of overall numbers too: according to a Pew Research
Center survey, 59 per cent of 18-20-year-old Gen Zers were
in college in 2017, compared with 53 per cent of similarly-aged
millennials in 2002.
As the first true digital natives given their lack of reference
to a pre-internet society, it’s little wonder that Gen Z has
turned many aspects of traditional approaches to marketing
on its head. But then, that’s part of what makes it fun, says
Renait Stephens, CEO and publisher at Study in the USA, an
organisation which has had a finger on the pulse of student
study abroad behaviour for over 40 years.
“Our approach to international student marketing is
always changing – you have to be nimble, and you have to
meet the students where they are,” Stephens tells The PIE
Review. But that’s easier said than done when the ‘where’ for
this generation is always changing too: “It could be Face-book
one day, Snapchat the next,” she adds.
It comes as no surprise that Gen Z has an insatiable ap-petite
for social media, but unlike their Gen Y counter-parts,
veteran players such as Facebook, Pinterest and
Twitter have been edged out in favour of bite-sized content
friendly platforms such as Snapchat, and Tiktok – known
as Douyin in its home market, China – which boasts
around 800 million monthly active users today.
When trying to reach this generation of students, har-nessing
the power of social media is crucial says Stephens,
but equally important is being aware of how it differs from
country to country. “In Vietnam, for example, Facebook is
still really huge; in Saudi Arabia, Snapchat is very popular.
Then you have China, which is all about is WeChat.”
It’s a situation that Andrew Crisp, joint founder of higher
education consultancy Carrington Crisp is acutely aware
of: “Yes, it can be complex because there are many plat-forms
to be aware of,” he says. “But in some cases, it works
out cheaper because you can adjust Facebook advertising
in real-time to target a certain market, compared to put-ting
a print advert in a country several thousand miles
away and being uncertain about the response or where it
has come from.”
Although Facebook may not hold quite as much sway with
the newest kids on campus, its acquisition of Instagram for
a cool $1 billion in 2012 means that adverts can appear on
that more Gen Z-friendly platform too, Crisp adds.
“We once ran a Facebook advertising campaign for a US
school that was targeting South and Southeast Asia, and
because Facebook owns Instagram, the adverts appeared
there as well.
“Two-thirds of the responses overall were generated by
the adverts that appeared on Instagram,” he says.
“So speaking broadly yes to social media, but the ques-tion
to ask here is what tools within that are relevant for
While a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to work
when targeting tomorrow’s international students through
digital means, the student journey from research to enrol-ment
is also a lot less linear than it used to be.
“When I first started with Study in the USA, we had a
magazine, and we had a website. A student would send an
email, and we sent that email on to the institution – and
that was it,” muses Stephens.
“Now we know that our company delivers its strongest
results when we use a combination of online profiles,
social media, email marketing, sponsored content and our
PHOTO: DANIEL NIETO / PEXELS
They’re prudent, social-minded, entrepreneurial, and they’re taking over.
Making up around 40 per cent of global consumers today, Generation Z is a
hyper-connected cohort of young people who have never known life without the
internet and social media. Kerrie Kennedy investigates how marketing agencies
and specialists are working with institutions to reach, engage and influence
tomorrow’s international students.