The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Credit: Daniel Xu

Across the country, college campuses are increasingly becoming testing grounds for new marketing products and services. And Penn is no exception. 

Penn recently saw a pop-up Lululemon shop open on 37th and Walnut streets, but the popular athletic wear brand is not the only company trying to attract college students, marketing professor Barbara Kahn said. 

Companies make conscious decisions to market toward young college students, Kahn explained, since many are away from home for the first time and are new to making choices as consumers.

Target, for example, has opened small stores in urban locations and near college campuses. Similarly, Amazon offers a free six-month Prime account to college students. 

“[Companies] want you to choose their brand first because a lot of consumer choice is once you make the decision, you just buy the same thing over and over again,” Kahn said. “While people’s minds are open to making a choice [be]cause they have to make it for the first time, marketers are interested in getting into your considerations.” 

Thomas Robertson, interim director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center and marketing professor, said companies view college-age students as the future of their consumer base.

“Companies have to be able to reach this new generation that’s coming up and make them aware of their products and services,” Robertson said. 

Though colleges like Penn may appear to be marketable places, companies do not use the same strategies at all schools. Kahn noted that there are certain factors that companies take into consideration when determining marketing strategies, such as regional taste, and a school’s size, location, and international student population. She added that companies deciding to open a store near a school also factor in whether the university is public or private and if it has a graduate population.

“People at Penn are above average in terms of incomes for the populations as a whole or their parents are,” Robertson said. “These people are probably more likely to have their financial resources to buy [the companies’] product.”  

One change Kahn has noticed in the retail environment in recent years is the increasing appeal to shop online, on marketplaces such as Amazon. To combat this online shopping appeal, Kahn added that many companies have opted to open stores closer to college campuses so students can physically try on and touch the products —an option unavailable in online stores.

Another marketing change that Kahn has observed at Penn is a reduction in the number of bookstores on campus.

“Now people are reading online,” Kahn said. “You would think that students want books, but now they seem to want online books.”

Executive Director of Real Estate Ed Datz says that recently local Philadelphia based eateries have also used Penn as a market to test their food by employing smaller concepts in the new Franklin's Table food court.

Datz said Franklin's Table, which opened this past March, is a way to cater to and test student preferences. Like the two Chipotle locations near Penn — at 3925 Walnut St. and 3400 Lancaster Ave. — or the four Saxby's Coffee locations near campus — 4000 Locust St., 3245 Chestnut St., 2951 Market St., and 65 N. 34th St. — Franklin's Table is yet another example of how companies' marketing strategies towards Penn have evolved.