Since the Credit CARD Act of 2009, credit card companies have been forced to alter their marketing activities.
It used to be a very common tactic for companies to offer students gift certificates, pizza, or shirts just for applying. But the Credit CARD Act outlawed this at application sites on or near college campuses.
As the CEO of Campus Commandos, a marketing firm helping companies connect with college students, I believe credit card companies should use this opportunity to try new, innovative strategies for reaching college students rather than clinging to old techniques. It seems credit card companies are trying to squeeze their old marketing plans through loopholes in the CARD Act. I would love to see these brands be more creative and really engage students.
Here's some helpful advice for credit card companies that are struggling to develop campus marketing strategies in the wake of the CARD Act of 2009.
Building a Bridge to Good Credit
Host a campus-wide competition with a physical activity. For example, group students into teams and ask them to physically build a bridge. Metaphorically, college students are building their own bridges - between their high school years when they had to rely entirely on their parents to financial independence. The physical interpretation of this theme will create a memorable, branded experience for students.
Focus the theme on building your credit and emphasize the things you typically need credit to buy, like a car. Teams could answer trivia questions (on credit-related topics) to earn the parts needed to physically construct their bridges. The first team to complete their bridge wins.
Credit Chutes and Ladders
Play to millennials' nostalgia and organize a Chutes and Ladders tournament. Customize the boards so that when players use their credit card in irresponsible ways, say buying more than they can afford on beer for a huge party, they slip down the credit chute. But when they build smart credit and are able to rent their first apartment, they climb up the credit ladder. Run a double shootout-style tourney and give away shopping sprees or money for textbooks for players at the final table. You'll have the whole campus buzzing.
Pizza and Practical Pointers
Turn the concept of the standard information session on its head and throw a fun pizza party. Topics could be credit-specific, such as "The Top Ten Ways to Stay Out of Debt," or just practical financial advice such as "Tax Write-Offs for College Students." Hold a session where students can bring in their own card statements and offer to create a pie chart that shows them where they're spending their money.
Host the sessions either at a bar off campus or in the dorms on campus. The key is to hold students in casual, social and interactive settings, encouraging them to actively participate in the discussion and allowing you to connect with them individually. Don't forget the pizza and soda.
There are endless possibilities to engage students with creative solutions that pique their interests without tricking them into filling out applications. If you do that, it's just a numbers game, and you're not getting quality leads. If you engage students in creative ways with activities they can relate to, they'll remember the experience (and your brand) long after they graduate.
Adam Grant currently serves as CEO of Campus Commandos, a top marketing vendor specializing in helping businesses reach millennials. Since founding the company in 2010, CC has worked with some of the world's leading brands--including HP and eBay--to help them connect with millions of college students to build brand loyalty.