Graduate from distributor to promotional consultant with these ideas for the education field.

Few places boast as diverse a group of people as those involved in a university. Athletes, academics, education administration professionals and loyal alumni are just a few of the population segments that clamor for promotional products related to their school of choice. Like many other markets, the education sector comes with plenty of challenges—but just as many opportunities to form longtime relationships with buyers looking to reach multiple audiences with messaging that will produce the same result: support for the school.

University students today are the youngest of the Millennials, a group with more than $400 billion in combined spending power that includes more than $100 billion in discretionary spending, according to NAM Youth Marketing. Millennials are highly influential among their peers and they see technology as integral to the college experience. Thus, promotional items that encourage or enhance digital engagement can be a valuable marketing tool for recruiters as well as student organizations on campus.

Ubiquitous technology hasn’t diminished the desire for good old-fashioned paper and pen, though. Missy Kilpatrick, CAS, vice president of new business development for supplier The Book Company in Delray Beach, Florida, says journals are more popular than ever among end users.

“People are overloaded with technology, spending too many hours each day staring at screens,” says Kilpatrick. “Journals provide an escape from the screen and allow for focused time to think. Studies have shown that people who take handwritten notes are more likely to absorb and retain the information they write down. It has also been shown that people who write down their ideas and goals are more likely to accomplish them.”

Kilpatrick adds that clients at colleges and universities are providing journals to alumni organizations, the admissions department, internal school promotions (medical, health and law) faculty meetings, new-student events and high school recruiting fairs, among others.

“Our journals are all selected due to their unique styling, affordable cost, color selection and our ability to add four-color artwork on ‘Promo Pages’ inside the pages of any journal,” she notes. “Our top three sellers are the COOL Journal and SYMPHONY Journal, and the TEMPO Journal, which comes with a pen.”

Norwood tablet skin web

Students can sport their school pride while taking notes on their iPads decorated with a repositionable, vinyl tablet skin. Decorate the skin with a digital four-color process imprint.

Norwood Promotional Products UPIC: NORWOOD



Give treasured faculty the tools they need. This 22- by 17-inch desk pad calendar features the academic year, August through July, designed with features specific to and for educators. The pad has ample room to keep track of school assignments with fun facts throughout, unique national month designations and a Year-In-View® calendar for planning.

Tru Art Advertising Calendars UPIC: TRUART


drum line mouse pad web

Keep a message at recipients’ fingertips with a four-color imprinted custom mouse notepad. The pad features 40 sheets of 60-pound white offset paper, a padded bottom and left side with four rounded corners, and a 22-point chipboard back.

Drum-Line UPIC: ABGH1356


badash olive bowl web

Give thanks for great donors with the gift of an eight-inch Chelsea olive bowl crafted in Poland of mouth-blown, lead-free glass.

Badash Crystal UPIC: Badash


Beacon reference calendar web

The Ready Reference® Academic desk monthly with a Morocco cover is perfect for professors and students alike. The 14-month planner has a monthly format with a quote on each open page spread. It holds a class schedule, grade keeper, periodic table, important dates, weights and measurements, metric conversion chart and math formulas, as well as other pertinent information. The durable leatherette cover comes in black, green, navy or red and can be hot-stamped with a logo or name.

Beacon Promotions UPIC: BEACONP


Starline travel mug web

Help students stay awake for that early morning test with a hot beverage in the spill-resistant Pacas vacuum travel mug. It also features a removable twist handle that can convert the mug into a tumbler. The patent-pending flip-top lid design with snap-locking closure prevents drinks from spilling, has a lip groove that allows you to position the drinking spout without even looking and is simple and easy to clean. The two black bands positioned at the bottom portion of the mug add style and grip. Upgrade to a TruColor™ logo and match the colors of the bands to school colors for no additional charge.

Starline USA, Inc. UPIC: STAR0009


Expert v neck webExpert raglan web

Dress students and alumni for active success in a women’s performance active V-neck shirt or men’s three-quarter raglan outfitter crew shirt. Both styles feature a relaxed fit for maximum comfort, moisture wicking to keep dry and BodyFreshé antimicrobials to keep clean and fresh at all times. Choose a V-neck in dark heather charcoal, dark heather royal, dark heather red or dark heather navy, in sizes S-2XL. Choose a raglan crew in one of five color combinations: white/black, white/royal, black/red, steel/black and steel/navy. It comes in sizes S-4XL.

Expert Brand UPIC: Exper698


BIC whiteboard pen web

Staff and students can make their mark again and again with a BIC ® GREAT ERASE® whiteboard marker. Perfect for use on dry-erase boards, glass and most nonporous surfaces, it easily erases with a dry cloth, tissue or felt eraser and features a rubberized grip for comfort and control, low-odor ink and a durable fine point for detailed writing.




Hydrate athletes and recreational sports stars with a 25-ounce water bottle that’s customized with a full-color imprint and features a screw top and carabiner for extra portability.

ADG Promotional Products UPIC: ADGPROMO


LAT shirt web

Wear school spirit proudly and comfortably with a four-ounce, 100-percent ringspun cotton fine jersey tee, available in more than 25 colors.

LAT Apparel UPIC: latsport


Picnic Plus lunch tote web

Meals and snacks are carried in style with a Cache linen lunch tote with matching vegan leather trim. The tote has PEVA leak-proof lining and comes with a lock-tight food container. Choose from celery and fuchsia.

Picnic Plus UPIC: picnic


Colleges Are Paying More Attention To Marketing

Whether it’s for alumni support, faculty retention or student involvement, colleges and universities are looking for new and better ways to reach audiences. Here are a few marketing trends to keep in mind when pitching to the education market:

Social media plays a big role. A university’s largest target audience—the student body—is decidedly digital-first in its approach to engagement. Universities are now beginning to better position themselves on social media to stay top of mind with current and prospective students, taking advantage of the ability to communicate through emotive storytelling, photos and videos on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

Direct interaction and on-site events are the most effective strategies. Though intuitive websites and native apps are among the most-wanted digital tools for many educational institutions, live events that bring students to campus such as open houses and high school visit days still offer the most potential for marketing success.

Brand partnerships are on the horizon. Starbucks made waves when it teamed up with Arizona State University online to provide discounted tuition to the coffee chain’s employees worldwide. Industry partnerships can offer many advantages, says education policy designer Bernard Bull, including broader appeal to prospective students and a more favorable public perception for the brand itself. The partnership works best when brands and schools share similar goals and values.

Non-traditional student populations are growing. By 2019, colleges can expect to see a 28-percent increase in adult learners. Unlike traditional students, adult learners are more likely to seek out an enhanced learning experience than make time for social activities. Marketing tuition assistance, commutability and scheduling flexibility can bring about greater enrollment for this sector. Adult learners are more likely to be older, and therefore more receptive to personal contact than their digital-first Millennial counterparts.


Higher Education In The U.S., By The Numbers

Fall 2014 Enrollment

17.3 million undergraduates, full time and part time

9.6 million Caucasian (7-percent increase from 2000)

3 million Hispanic (119-percent increase)

2.4 million African American (57-percent increase)

1 million Asian

100,000 Native American/Alaskan native

100,000 Pacific Islander

More than 4,000 degree-granting institutions accepted first-year undergraduates in 2014, including 2,603 four-year schools granting bachelor’s and postgraduate degrees. Of those 4,000-plus schools, 1,583 were public, 1,366 were private nonprofit schools and 1,258 were private for-profit.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics


Come On In!

Top 10 Most Accepting Colleges In 2015

These colleges and universities accepted 99 percent of those who applied:

University of Arkansas-Little Rock

Gainesville State College, Georgia

Lewis-Clark State College, Idaho

Brigham Young University, Idaho

Kansas State University

CUNY College-Staten Island

Southern Virginia University

SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary, California

Boise Bible College, Idaho

Maine College of Art



Uh, Not So Fast

Top 10 Most Exclusive Colleges In 2015

These schools accepted only 10 percent of applicants, or fewer:

Harvard University, Massachusetts – 6 percent

Columbia University, New York – 7 percent

The Juilliard School, New York – 7 percent

Stanford University, California – 7 percent

Yale University, Connecticut – 8 percent

Princeton University, New Jersey – 8 percent

Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York – 8 percent

Massachusetts Institute of Technology – 9 percent

College of the Ozarks, Missouri – 9 percent

Dartmouth College, New Hampshire – 10 percent


Case Studies

Real-World Solutions

Drumming Up Donations With A New Mascot

Scanned Document

Macomb Community College in Michigan needed a promotional product to help increase enrollment and raise money to support curricula. With only the idea of a mascot on the drawing board, Creative Specialties created a life-size costume called the “Mighty Mac” for the school’s 50th anniversary celebration. The “Mighty Mac” helped raise more than $6,000 for the college in the first two months of the promotion alone.

Creative Specialties Co., Inc.

Putting A Fresh Spin On Freshman Orientation Giveaways

mintyThe marketing group at Northeastern University in downtown Boston sought a new approach to gifting new students during freshman orientation on campus. In the past, the new students received pens, key chains and travel-sized toiletries such as deodorant and toothpaste. After some discussion, it was decided to hand out mints packaged in a mini customized box.

The advertising mint box held 20-25 peppermints and offered five sides of customizable ad space where Northeastern could share information on campus activities. The box, along with other products, were given to the students in a goodie bag as they entered the campus auditorium for the salutation address. The freshmen loved the mints, as did university officials, who pledged to include multiple mint boxes in freshman goodie bags the following year.

Admints & Zagabor

Ringing Up Prospective Students

Northwestern College in Illinois wanted to stand out during college fairs and open houses that welcomed prospective college students. The school took advantage of digital music download trends and offered booth visitors a reward card that could be redeemed for one free ringtone. Additionally, when students accessed the site to choose a ringtone, they were instructed to provide information about their education interests. This allowed Northwestern to gain valuable data on prospective students while promoting school opportunities and amenities.

Flat World Design