College textbooks cost a fortune — and most college students don’t have a trust fund or a full-ride athletic scholarship to help make ends meet. So when Amazon decided to enter the college textbook business, this was undoubtedly good news for ramen noodle budgets across the country.
But nevertheless, there was a key question: What was the optimal way to build awareness, consideration and sales for a new online offering — amid a well-established buying pattern (aka, the local university book store)? Furthermore, what was the optimal way for a mainstream brand like Amazon to maximize relevance with college students — without trying to pander or “talk college” in a way that was untrue for the master brand?
Our mission was clear: Build efficient, effective trial on targeted campuses across the country — validating the business model and gaining insights for rapid expansion.
Our engagement started with qualitative and quantitative research, which helped us tease out two attitudinal target audiences — both anchored in self-perceptions of being responsible, savvy shoppers and trying new things. In other words, the ideal target for Amazon — and one also with a penchant for proselytizing as early adopters.
After designing a wide range of marketing communications experiments, we got to work — building a wide range of trackable, scalable omnichannel investments — from posters, print and digital advertising to email marketing, promotions and landing pages. In sum, this initial work phase not only seeded the business in key markets, but also gained key learnings that were used in modeling and expanding the Amazon Student offering going forward.