How To Engage Pandemials

Author
Tony Lee

20 years of experience marketing higher education globally. Formerly the Global Digital Marketing Director at Study Group, leading teams in Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney, New York & the UK recruiting students for universities in the USA, Australia and Europe. Before this, Anthony established the digital marketing footprint for INTO University Partnerships. Anthony has lectured on digital student recruitment on behalf of The EAIE, the British Council, ICEF, DAAD, CASE and NAFSA. Anthony studied Digital Disruption Strategy at Oxford University and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Multiple sectors are subject to digital transformation and the impact of a new, hyper-connected generation of consumers entering their markets. The Higher Education Industry (HEI) is no exception to this and, due to the very nature of youth engagement, is maybe the most impacted.

According to the blog Spacestor, Pandemial is a new expression related to the terms Gen Z and Zoomer. Generally speaking, a Pandemial is old enough to be conscious of the full impact of COVID-19 on their lives, but not old enough to remember life before 9/11.

Higher Education is currently faced with recruiting and engaging with the next generation of incoming students. These students are from Generation Z - born between 1997 and 2012/15; there are 68 million of these individuals in the US alone. 

These students constitute an entirely distinct customer who are marketers themselves. These individuals follow, promote and engage on social media and function as consumers through ever more personalised and empathetic platforms like Netflix and Tinder.

Traditional marketing communications models do not connect with this group and are starting to impact at scale. According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92 per cent of consumers trust organic, user-generated content (UGC) more than they trust advertising. Influencers have become a vital part of the marketing mix for generation Z. Almost half (44 per cent) of Generation Z has made a purchase decision based on a recommendation from a social influencer, compared with 26 per cent of the general population, researcher Kantar found in a consumer study shared with Mobile Marketer. The study found that seventy per cent of Gen Zers follow at least one influencer on platforms like YouTube or Instagram.

The Higher Education Industry is seeing the emergence of Pandemials – a generational cohort worried about student loans and the ROI they are getting from the university experience, whilst at the same time being fluent and active publishers and distributors of content.

The situation has resulted in a massive disconnect between this hyper-aware, hyper-serviced, hyper-fluid customer and the static, staid and conservative institutions which serve them. For many (and their wider families), the university is the most significant financial and career-based decision of their lives – and yet the system itself can feel in some ways entirely out of step with them as individuals. 

This generation utilises A.I.-powered conversational marketing all the time whilst having to deal with Red Brick institutions sending them spam emails. They have a heightened awareness of, and insight into how social media, in particular, functions. 

As an industry we have an audience of young people who require support and guidance that is always on, responsive, personalised and possibly automated.We have a sector that has understandably focused on digital tools that enable the remote delivery of learning and have neglected the required investment to ensure engagement and positive student outcomes. How will you tap into this business opportunity?

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