Colleges are a haven for marketing giveaways. College students are tech-savvy, impressionable, and generally resigned to cafeteria food or dollar ramen packets thanks to the exuberant cost of a college education these days—which is precisely why you should target them with promotional gear. Unlike older generations, they’ve grown up using technology. Hence, they’ll have great use and appreciate for your tech-related branded giveaways, such as power cords and USB keys. Their youth allows them to be open-minded, as they form interests and loyalties outside of the family home—an opportune time for a company to make a lasting impression and potentially earn a brand loyalist. Gifting them items they can actually use in their daily at a time when funds are limited means your item has a greater chance of sticking around for a while.
With that said, don’t assume anything you throw at them will stick. College students may typically have limited resources, but they’re not desperate. Gifting them something completely unrelated to their daily lives and interests is a surefire way to ensure it ends up in the trash—a waste of your time, efforts, and money. Instead, consider these ideas below for items that college students will use, keep, and enjoy.
Lightweight, compact, and able to hold a decent amount of stuff, drawstring bags are a must for college kids moving around campus.
While they’re great for everyday use when running between classes, work, and social activities, they especially shine in the gym and at other athletic spaces, such as the basketball or tennis court. They offer a perfect solution for stashing sneakers, gym clothes, and other items that may be needed for a work-out or casual game with friends.
To make sure yours stands out, ideally you could use the college colors, mascot, or another way that links your bag to the school (with their permission, of course).
This style of bag tends to be more heavyweight, sturdy, and stronger, which allows it to hold heavier stuff items like textbooks and laptops. Laptop bags specifically provide compartments and cushioning to allow for extra protection of electronics that aren’t typically found in the average backpack. This makes a messenger/laptop bag a standout item, as nearly every college student considers a laptop as a daily necessity. A nice addition to this bag style is one that has a compartment to hold a drink, like a bottle of water or soda—something many college kids carry on them as they move throughout their busy days.
A zippo brand lighter will last for ages—well past college in fact. As such, it’s a treasured item, especially when compared to the cheap plastic lighters that are forever going lost. Lighters can be branded with beautiful engraving. Consider doing something school oriented, the name and date of a significant event, or a picture that illustrates something memorable about the school, location, event, etc. This could include a type of tree or flower that grows across the campus, a mountain seen in the distance, a favorite campus food, or anything else that triggers a generally recognized memory of the school.
A reusable water bottle is a great promotional giveaway for college students for multiple reasons, but none so much as they’re simply incredibly useful. Whether filling up at the water fountain between classes or carrying it to a gym session, there are plenty of opportunities for college folks to get good use out of it, which your brand will be along for the ride thanks to a perfectly positioned logo/company name/etc. Bonus: keep the design young and quirky to stand out and catch their attention.
The old trusty t-shirt is an enviably easy way to capture attention, as well as something that will get plenty of use. The college crowd is especially keen to throw on a t-shirt for an early morning class (paired with sweatpants after a late-night studying…or partying…). Liven the shirt up with a funky picture or catchy phrase to elevate it to the top of the t-shirt pile in any given dorm.
We may be living in a tech age, but paper hasn’t gone away. A notebook is still a highly useful tool for college students, who are juggling lectures, projects, and papers. A notebook is a classic school tool, which means it will be used extensively (until it’s completely filled up).
What pairs better with a notebook than a pen? A pen is an inexpensive but effective promotional giveaway. It’s something every college kid needs to keep on-hand. Offering them one free? Even better.
Dealing with the ever-important phone charger can be annoying. They have a way of walking off seemingly on their own; imaging trying to keep hold of one in a dorm housing hundreds of students? Frankly, no sane person would throw out a free phone charger, lest of all a college student. Instead, opt to stand out with a portable power bank, especially if you’re gifting them at a school with a large commuting student population.
We hope this list has helped you brainstorm some ideas for your next college promotional giveaway. For even more ideas, check out our running list of college promotional items, tailored specifically for students.
Some parting advice? Once you settle on an item, remember to include an eye-catching logo/slogan/etc.—this is how you’ll not only get used, but noticed around campus by other students. Channeling the ups and downs, heartthrobs and heartbreaks of being a college student is a great way to connect with this giant audience. If all else fails, be funny. Between exams and mounting student debt, what college student couldn’t use a good laugh?