College Students Trust J&J Brand Most; Feel Happiest with Clinique

September 3, 2009

Students heading to college this year say that Clinique is the brand that makes them feel happiest in the current economic climate, while Johnson & Johnson evokes the most trust, according to the latest? “College Explorer” 2009 study commissioned by Alloy Media + Marketing.

The ninth annual study, which provides a comprehensive dive into the demographics, preferences, behaviors and aspirations of today’s college students, found that this year’s “Class of 2013” is more concerned and conservative than years past, yet remains positive about its personal impact on the world, and optimistic about the economy.

Brands of Note

When asked to think of the brands that evoke feelings of “happiness,” college students in the study picked Clinique, Apple and McDonald’s as the top three. The longer list:

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When asked about which brands evoke feelings of trust, Johnson & Johnson, Sony and, again, Apple were chosen most often. The longer list:

alloy-media-marketing-top-brands-evoke-feelings-trust-college-students-april-2009.jpg

Record Numbers Arrive on Campus

According to Alloy Media + Marketing, the Class of 2013 is the largest in history, with 13.8 million 18-to-30-year-olds arriving on campuses throughout the country. Consequently, the spending power of this group also has risen to a record $250 billion, up nearly 6% over 2008 figures. Discretionary spending shows a comparable gain, with 18-30 year old college students reporting peak figures at $56 billion, a 5% increase over 2008, the study found.? This spells good news for the college economy, which Alloy said is starting to show signs of recovery.

They Still Gotta Have It

Given the economic downturn, the study did find that college students may be showing greater consideration when it comes to their discretionary purchases. However, they do not appear to be significantly cutting back on their “must have” items. For example, food purchases remain a top priority, showing the largest increase in category discretionary spending overall, while spending on clothing, shoes, entertainment and technology are slightly higher than last year’s figures.

Notably, when it comes to “tech” purchasing decisions, the research found that college students say they make the final call. Some 70% of college students state they are the key decision makers when purchasing their cell phones, while 63% make the ultimate choice for their digital camera and 60% decide on their own computer.

Additional survey findings:

  • While cost remains top of mind for college students, a substantial 61% are open to trying new brands.
    More than half (58%) of college students find samples most useful when it comes to advertising.
  • 43% of students state a preference for socially responsible brands.
  • The need to be connected, and the opportunities to be connected are higher than ever:
    • Some 60% of college campuses offer blanket wireless coverage for students, up from less than one-third two years ago.
    • For the first time since the study’s inception, desktop-computer ownership slid below half of the college student population (48%), while laptop models are owned by 75% of students.

    alloy-media-marketing-college-students-access-variety-technologies-april-2009.jpg

    • In four years, ownership of MP3 players has nearly doubled, to 74%.
    • Digital camera ownership also jumped to three-quarters (75%), a 17% increase since 2006.

Friends and Family Influence Most

Input from friends and family continues to be a strong influence on students’ decision-making with respect to brands, products and services, the study found. Some 62% of students place particular importance on word of mouth from friends. Nearly half (44%) trust the advice of family and four in 10 are influenced by seeing others using products.

Personal Concerns Among Students

While peer pressure – including persuasion to drink alcohol or pressure to look a certain way – is identified as a problem area among respondents, students’ finances and getting good grades appear to be putting the most pressure on them. Financial pressure tops the list as a major concern for one-third of college students, though the economic downturn appears to be driving fiscally responsible behaviors, the study found. Four in 10 report saving more than years past and one-quarter (25%) are either working for the first time, taking on more hours at their current job or getting a second job.

For their part, parents may also be more sympathetic to the struggles of their newly “independent” offspring, noted Alloy.

  • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of 18-24 year-old college students who talk with their parents say they openly discuss spending habits.
  • For 18-24 year olds, more than four in ten (41%) are receiving money from their parents directly into a personal account and one-fifth are receiving gift cards for nearby retail stores.

High Level of Confidence

The class of 2013 also appears to have a high level of confidence in their age group, especially the youngest group of college students. When asked which group has the greatest ability to impact positive change in the world, four in ten 18-24-year-olds ranked their age group at the top – higher than the overall 18-30 age group response. This is more than twice the confidence they place with the federal government and nearly five times that of Fortune 500 companies.

While a majority of college students say they feel less secure about their financial situation compared with the previous year, they also appear hopeful. When asked their feelings on the outlook of the economy, more than one-third (35%) of college students expressed optimism, saying they think the economy will improve in the coming year.

“Today’s college class is clearly in control, from their media consumption and expanding connections to their feelings of empowerment as agents for change,” said Andy Sawyer, EVP of media services for Alloy Media + Marketing.

An unrelated study by Penn, Schoen & Berland, Landor Associates, and Burson-Marsteller also found that Johnson & Johnson is the top-scoring brand among consumers for corporate social responsibility.

About the study: The study was conducted online in the US by Harris Interactive on behalf of Alloy Media + Marketing. Fieldwork took place April 1-27, 2009 among 1,521 18-34 year-old college students (2-year, 4-year and graduate students, including 1,433 18-30 year-old college students)from an opt-in online research panel. Results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, region and school status. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

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