Why You Should Offer a Student Discount to Build Your Brand

Only 7 percent of bass anglers are age 24 or younger. Clearly, you should forget about trying to serve them be increasing your efforts to bring them into the sport. If that sounds like Mission Impossible, it’s not. Here’s at least one easy way to bring them on board—and you don’t even have to be Tom Cruise to get the job done.

Being close in age to that targeted demographic, I make my best attempt to reach down to the “younger” kids to see what makes them tick. Snapchat is not the only answer.

Let’s get back to the point: student discounts. The 18-24 demographic is extremely active, but not exactly awash with disposable income. What they do have, though, is marketing power. Yes, through Snapchat, but also through Instagram, Twitter and maybe even Facebook. You want millennial marketing power to help you get your business noticed, which is exactly why you should first help them out.

Not so long ago—within the past decade—I was a student at the University of Memphis (go Tigers!), and in that time, I witnessed one small business grow from a start up shop in a repurposed gas station into arguably the most popular barbecue empire in the city.

That’s serious business in a town that hosts the World Championship of BBQ and is known primarily for two things, the other being Elvis.

Trivia: Elvis reportedly died from a prescription drug overdose. Whether you believe that or not is up to you, but word on the street is that his cardiac arrest was most likely brought on by a penchant for ordering at least one large BBQ pizza (that’s a thing) per day.

Elvis aside, let’s talk about this business. And let me school you on how a one-time food truck grew first into that gas station and then into a triple-location behemoth that boosted its reputation on the rumble of 20-somethings.

The journey started with student discounts.

In 2006, when I started college, Central BBQ was just another BBQ joint in a city full of BBQ joints. With over 80 competitors in town, Central needed a way to separate themselves from the pack, and they found that separation by leveraging a promotion—a free drink to anyone who presented a University of Memphis ID at the counter—with a promotional tool—a store branded keeper’s cup.

It was just a plastic cup with a pig on it. But that cup, because it was essentially a free giveaway, quickly became the default glassware for tens of thousands of college kids in the Memphis area. Suddenly, the Central BBQ logo was ubiquitous with college life in the city. The creepy pig made impromptu appearances at beer pong tournaments, Sunday Fundays and cookouts virtually overnight.

Visiting students from other schools would come to Memphis and immediately be ushered to Central BBQ for ribs, nachos and all things good. Then, visiting parents, aka the demographic with actual disposable income, followed suit.

Before you knew it, the parents of the students were taking their friends (more disposable income), and Central was on track to open their second and third locations.

In 2015, about ten years after they moved into an old gas station and turned it into their first smoked pork studio, Central has become the go-to spot for locals and tourists. Central has usurped long-time, legacy brands and brought in a new demographic of 20-somethings and teenagers. They are the same 20-somethings and teenagers that are supposedly health conscious, but night in and night out they scarf down BBQ; you know, in the same way that 20-somethings and teenagers supposedly aren’t fishing.

This small business has generated a feverish and devoted following that started, at least in some part, because of student discounts. So the question remains, why are you not offering a discount to students at your store? Go ahead, fire one up. And while you’re at it, throw in a free hat.

You too can be the next Central BBQ, even if you’re product is only edible for fish.