For many young people, college can represent the first time they’re confronted by a slew of consumer decisions from household items and finance, to fashion and personal technology. Reaching nearly five million students through almost 700 stores, and helping them better understand those decisions, has become the expertise of Barnes & Noble College Marketing (BNCM).
A division of Barnes & Noble College, BNCM is particularly well-positioned to leverage the needs of today’s college students and connects them with brands, products and services to enhance their social and academic experience.
“The key objective is to provide value and a good on-campus life experience for our students,” explains BNCM Senior Marketing Manager, Marie Policastro. She goes on to explain that the brands and companies BNCM chooses to partner with have to meet select criteria. “They have to compliment our own brand, be relevant, and ideally provide a strong educational tie-in,” she says. A case in point is the program BNCM is currently running with Symantec. Makers of the popular Norton virus prevention software, Symantec becomes an increasingly relevant partner as students develop greater reliance on social networks, digital media and other online sites. Symantec is just one of BNCM’s brand partners on a list, which also includes Fortune 500 leaders such as American Express, Wrigley, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.
Keeping ahead of college consumer trends and behaviors is something BNCM understands particularly well having recently released its 2012 College Marketing Report. Based on a widespread survey of its Gen Next panel, the report details valuable key findings about students’ media habits, social and digital behaviors, and marketing preferences. Policastro also points to the success of crowd-sourcing initiatives and the over 600,000 Facebook followers who also provide valuable input on deciding what kinds of products students would like to see in campus stores. “This information can really help our partners and guide them with the consistency of their brand or help promote a product or drive trials,” she points out.
The success of Barnes & Noble College Marketing programs is borne out by the lasting relationships formed with partners. Now in its third year with Symantec, BNCM has also produced long-standing relationships with Hewlett Packard, Dell and Microsoft and has an enviable renewal rate of eighty percent, which Policastro believes is testimony not just to marketing, but also to how well the Barnes & Noble College stores execute.
“Although our role is to help brands provide a meaningful connection to campus, we also want to complement the overall Barnes and Noble College brand and the bookstores and communities we serve,” she says.