ASOS is arguably a ‘millennial’ brand, and while this term might cover a whole spectrum of life stages – from entering the world of work to starting a family – the student experience stands out as one that’s truly unique.
I recently attended YMS17 – an event focusing on youth marketing – where I heard ASOS talk about how they have specifically targeted the student demographic.
With help from marketing agency Seed, the ecommerce brand aimed to create an authentic and empowering campaign that would truly resonate and connect with this young audience. Here’s how it succeeded.
Understanding the student experience
ASOS says that its challenge was to become the number one destination for fashion-loving students. A rather broad aim, perhaps, but you get the idea.
In order to do so, it first set out to better understand this target market and what it is they desire from an online brand. As well as determining specific characteristics of the consumer – someone who is likely to be fashion-forward, experimental, and highly targetable due to a high level of social media activity – it set out to identify key student trends.
So, what do students want from university life today?
ASOS suggests that the notion of ‘success’ is no longer as traditional as it once was – especially within university life. From starting a new business to becoming a social media influencer, the youth of today are far more set on creating their own version of success, as well as their own rules on how to achieve it.
In turn, while fashion might have an impact on a student’s identify, it is clear that a curation of individuality and of one’s self is far more important than modern trends.
ASOS also emphasises the experience-seeking nature of today’s student audience – one that has grown up with the internet (and in fact has never been without it) – resulting in the expectation of a seamless consumer experience, whereby the real and digital worlds blur.
An interactive campaign
Once the brand had determined the typical values and lifestyle of today’s student consumer, it aimed to craft a campaign that would ultimately align with and resonate with this audience.
The ‘Blank Canvas’ competition – launched in time for the ‘back to uni’ period across multiple global markets – involved students creating their own version of a tote bag when they registered as a student on ASOS.
There were a few ways to get involved, but it was all done via a simple app designed specifically for the campaign. Students could either create a bag from pre-designed emoji-style graphics, select from 10 designs by global professional artists, or upload a bespoke design that they had created themselves.
Essentially, it meant that all students could have the opportunity to get involved, but it also gave the most creative the chance to truly stand out. The best design would win a prize – to be able to sell their creation on ASOS, as well as a bursary and dedicated mentor.
The winner would be decided by a voting system, with all voters receiving a 15% discount on the site to encourage participation.
With over 22,000 custom-bags designed and over 80,000 votes from territories like the US and the UK, the competition drew a huge amount of interest.
In turn, ASOS saw great results on-site, with a 178% success rate for targeted sign-ups, and a high conversion from sign-ups to shoppers.
While the figures speak for themselves, the brand also measured success in terms of positive brand sentiment, citing excellent feedback from participants as well as the general overwhelming response of entries as proof. The competition element also meant that students essentially did the marketing on behalf of ASOS, using their own social presence to promote their entries and the campaign itself.
— Alison (@alison_geddes) December 10, 2016
Finally, the brand was able to take away a few key discoveries about the student consumer, using it to inform future campaigns and targeting. Firstly, that the age-old student stereotype is far from the reality of this super-ambitious demographic.
Secondly, that by empowering a young audience – offering them a chance to fulfil their own potential as well as explore their individuality – a brand is able to generate great results.
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