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May 9

Marketing to Generation Alpha: How to Engage the Next Generation


In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education marketing, marketing to generation alpha and their influencers is crucial. 

Different generations are beginning to have an increase in educational influence.

This creates quite a complicated mix of target audiences for higher ed marketers to cultivate. 

As higher ed marketers, we have to be marketing to generation alpha (and each succeeding generation in their turn) while also helping non-traditional students who are of a different generation. 

It can often feel like an existential game of tug-of-war when marketing to generation alpha and non-traditional students at the same time.

With information expected to be accessible at the click of a button, how can your institution firmly support these prospective learners?

Brad Entwistle, Founding Partner at imageseven, takes us down under with a unique Australian perspective on this important topic.

Drawing parallels between the U.S. and Australian educational systems, Brad helps us understand how to deconstruct different generational communication styles and interactions.

Understanding Generation Alpha

Understanding Generation Alpha involves recognizing that they are the first cohort to be entirely immersed in a digital world from birth. 

[Gen Alpha] is the first real generation to grow up entirely in that digital domain and [be] digital first.

The children of millennials, Generation Alpha is set to significantly influence the evolution of education and marketing. 

Their upbringing in a tech-saturated environment shapes their learning preferences, communication styles, and engagement expectations. 

For marketers, recognizing and optimizing our marketing for their digital fluency is crucial.

Rather than simply using digital tools, the strategy must integrate these tools seamlessly into their daily educational experiences. 

The focus should be on creating interactive, engaging content that captures their attention and educates.

Higher ed marketers should leverage multimedia and interactive platforms that resonate with a generation that has never known a world without smartphones, tablets, and constant connectivity.

As digital natives, Generation Alpha values creativity and personal expression.

This can be integrated into educational marketing by highlighting opportunities for students to develop these aspects. 

Schools and universities might showcase their commitment to fostering innovation through coding courses, digital art programs, and project-based learning that taps into the entrepreneurial spirit often celebrated by this generation. 

Marketing strategies should also emphasize the security measures and ethical considerations of using technology, which are key concerns for parents

By aligning their digital offerings with the core values and expectations of both Generation Alpha and their parents, educational institutions can position themselves as forward-thinking, secure, and aligned with the future of education.

The Shift in Decision-Making

A significant shift in the educational decision-making process is the influence of younger students themselves

Brad mentions a study by Independent Schools Queensland, which shows a marked increase in children’s influence on school selection. 

Once upon a time, the primary decision maker [on school selection] was the parent without a shadow of a doubt.

But there’s been some interesting longitudinal work done by Independent Schools Queensland. One of the things they’ve measured is the influence of the child on selection of school.

And it is scary. I find it really scary that a seven-year-old is being asked, “We’ve visited three schools now, which one do you want to go to?”

This is across age groups, [selecting] a school for “Totally or highly influenced by the child’s opinion” was 53%. 

This trend is a departure from the past when parents were the primary decision-makers. 

Today, even children as young as seven are asked for their input on which school they prefer, highlighting the need for schools to consider the student’s experience during school tours and engagements.

Marketing to Millennial Parents

The relationship between Generation Alpha and their millennial parents introduces new dynamics in marketing strategies. 

Millennial parents, having been exposed to vast technological advances themselves, often have high expectations for the integration of technology in educational settings. 

They look for institutions that not only use technology but do so in a way that enhances learning and development without compromising safety or personal interaction. 

Educational marketers must therefore craft messages that speak to both the advanced tech expectations of parents and the intuitive tech engagement of children. 

This involves promoting programs that demonstrate a savvy use of technology in the classroom, ranging from AI-driven personalized learning paths to virtual reality experiences that bring abstract concepts to life.

The millennial parents of Generation Alpha are looking for more than just educational outcomes; they value the experience their children will have at school. 

This shift towards experiential value requires marketers to highlight what attending their institution will feel like, rather than focusing solely on academic achievements. 

The Role of Short-Form Content

Reflecting on content preferences, Brad underscores the rise of short-form content. 

The strategies that we keep trying to apply is to stay ahead of technology… The other things are short-form content of any description. 

I can’t remember the last time we got a parent to read 1500 words. That’s just, that’s really long form now. 

So now that’s not to say that a school that maybe produces a book that reinforces their educational philosophy or something like that isn’t valuable. It is! 

Because the closer they get to the bottom of the funnel, the more inclined they are to dig deeper into who you are and why you do it.

Today’s parents and prospective students are unlikely to engage with long-form content initially. 

Instead, they prefer quick and digestible pieces of information that provide immediate value. 

This trend necessitates a strategic approach to content creation, ensuring that it resonates quickly and effectively with the audience.

Personalization in Marketing

Another critical aspect of marketing to Generation Alpha is personalization

Parents and students today expect personalized experiences similar to what they encounter in retail and other consumer spaces. 

Personalization technology is enabling personalization [in marketing to generation alpha]. 

They can get it when they go to the local shopping mall and they buy a new shirt or something and that experience will be personalized for them.

So why isn’t that happening at school where theoretically I’m part of a community and you know me even so much better? 

The demand for personalization is vastly untapped in [education marketing].

Schools need to leverage personalization technologies to meet these expectations, making prospective students and parents feel recognized and valued as part of the school community.

Find Out Your “Why”

One of the last things Brad left us with in the interview was the need to find our purpose as institutions, our north star, and anchor ourselves to that purpose.

[Identifying your mission] it serves as an ethical and a moral compass. 

It’s not about forcing beliefs on others. [But like] Simon Sinek [says], find out what’s your “why.”

Identify it and then know what it means. Work out what the parameters of [your mission] are. 

What does it mean [in terms of what] you will do, but most importantly, what does it mean [in terms of what] you won’t do?

Of course, finding your why is a crucial first step to finding mission-fit students for your school. 

Whether you’re marketing to Generation Alpha or to non-traditional students, knowing who you are and what you stand for is the ultimate way to find the right students for your school.

Listen to our interview with Brad Entwistle to get even more insights into:

  • Millennial parent content preferences
  • Varying financial influences for students
  • How to present to Gen Alpha
  • AI in Australia and the U.S.

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