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Apple, Target, Facebook Tops for College Students

Annual Survey Shows Social-Networking Split Between Sexes

By Published on . 4

YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- They love Apple, shop at Target, use Facebook online and are split on whether they adore or despise the Geico cavemen. They wish they were better at sports, watch TV more often than surf the web and view a lot of YouTube videos, but generally don't create them.
Apple's iPhone was one of college students most anticipated new products.
Apple's iPhone was one of college students most anticipated new products.

Meet the next generation of leaders and consumers: today's college students. Anderson Analytics' third annual fall brand survey of college students queried their likes and dislikes as well as brand affinities and media consumption of the 18-to-24 set and came up with plenty of lessons for marketers.

Women and social networks
While Facebook ranked as the most popular website among this demographic, social networking is twice as popular with young women as young men. MySpace, which was No. 1 last year, ranked No. 2 with females but dropped out of the top five for young men. That means marketers using social-networking sites to target young people are reaching far more females than males.

"The gender differences here are significant," said Jesse Chen, lead consultant for Anderson's GenX2Z youth-research group. "It's the opposite of what we see when looking at use of social-networking sites for business purposes among adults, where men are far more likely to use sites such as LinkedIn. Among this younger demographic, it's the women who are the über networkers." Which also raises an interesting question: As these women age, will they change the networking dynamic between women and men in the future? And will new LinkedIn-type competitors rush to fill that need?

Tom Anderson, managing partner Anderson Analytics, offered anecdotal evidence of his own LinkedIn list of 800 with many more men than women. "We've seen older adult women tend to be more careful with networking and sharing information. Obviously, that's not the case for younger women," he said. "As these women age, I think the disparity will go away. ... The question is what kind of choices will be available for them?"
Tom Anderson
Tom Anderson

Influence
While the college group is one of the smallest demographically in the U.S. -- about 18 million projected by the U.S. Census this year vs. around 80 million baby boomers -- it is one of the most influential. And the one paid most homage by marketers.

"They have huge impact on what their parents buy, and then they have their own money, more than any other generation before them, and of course they are the consumers of tomorrow," Mr. Anderson said, adding that marketers also target the 18-to-24 crowd to reach society at large. "In America, everyone wants to be younger, so we look to younger people. We think they're happier than us and we want to be like them, resulting in a younger-targeted marketing message," he said.

Not surprisingly, the brand that ruled with this group was Apple. It ranked as the No. 2 overall best brand by 17% of the students; ranked Nos. 1 and 2 as most anticipated products with iPhone and new iPod versions; ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in product recommendations with iPod followed by Apple products in general; and ranked No. 6 in most popular commercials.

Love and hate for lizard
As for commercials, the ads these kids love are also some of the ones they hate. Geico ranked No. 1 on both the best and worst list of commercials -- 25% ranked it good, 26% ranked it bad. Axe Bodyspray, iPhone, Burger King and Apple also made both lists.

While their preference for technology was apparent, particularly among men who ranked Digg and Engadget among their top 10 websites, they didn't make the leap to consumer-generated media. Only 8% said they uploaded videos to YouTube. And in fact, 64% don't make videos at all while another 14% who do make them said they don't share them with anyone. While 75% surf social-networking sites and 71% read news online, only 14% said they wrote their own blogs.

Other than online habits, there were plenty of other disparities between the sexes. More than 71% of the young women recently read a book for pleasure vs. 55% of men, while more than 55% of men played video games alone vs. just 21% of women. But even togetherness didn't up the video-game-play time: Only 17% of women said they had recently played a game with others, while more than 40% of the men had.
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