Kevin Lyons
Research Supervisor

Hey Higher Ed Marketers! Get to Know the Parents.

Lessons from the Simmons® National Consumer Study

The Simmons® National Consumer Study has been providing insightful information to marketers since 1954. The survey, polled approximately 25,000 US residents several times per year, is believed to be the broadest and deepest survey of American consumer behavior available.Among its 60,000 data points are some that can help college marketers get inside the heads of their target audiences,and get their messages in front of them.

For example, the study revealed that parents who expect to send a child to college in the next year are less averse to marketing efforts. Compared to the average adult in the study, these parents were 26 percent less likely to avoid watching TV commercials, 21 percent less likely to choose not to be included on mailing lists, and 19 percent less likely to indicate that they do not like advertising in general.

The study also revealed some opportunities to engage parents. They were 33 percent more likely to have purchased, after receiving an email advertisement. They were 82 percent more likely to use Ask.com and 29 percent more likely to use YouTube. They were also more likely to use financial research websites, daily deal websites like Groupon, and online message boards. They were more likely to read national newspapers (includingUSA Today, NY Times, and the Wall Street Journal). They were also more likely to listen to drive time radio.

For college marketers, this presents an argument for investing more money in acquiring email addresses of parents, and more time in maintaining a presence on message boards. For example, institutions could monitor websites that provide financial information about colleges and universities so that they can proactively address key issues about the cost and value of the education.  Financial and other information targeted toward parents can also be addressed on YouTube pages and publications.  The research also suggests that selective use of print advertising and radio sponsorship will help build awareness and name recognition among these key influencers. It also suggests that promotions, such as giving parents coupons for book store purchases during campus visits, might be a good idea too.