"I’m a U[niversity of Minnesota] journalism school grad, class of 2000. My focus was the advertising track. I fell in love with marketing in high school,” Jason Bakker said. “After going through school and actually starting out in an internship, I had this kind of nagging feeling that I needed to try law enforcement while I was still young. It was a curiosity — the desire to experience something totally different from what I had been schooled in.”
Bakker went back to school, earned a law enforcement certificate, and worked as a Minneapolis Park Patrol Agent for about two years. “I was responding to 911 calls, making arrests, writing citations,” Bakker said. “I want to be clear — I wasn’t a licensed law enforcement officer.” He “really loved the work,” but, he said, “my life flashed before my eyes — I saw the stress that police officers go through and the toll it takes on their lives.”
He went back to Campus Media, the company he had interned for, and has been there ever since. “I’ve worked over the years to get experience in as many areas of the business as I could,” he said. He began in marketing, developing the company’s brand. He moved into new business development and moved up to Director of Sales. The company recently created the COO role for him.
The company is “kind of like the secret weapon of ad agencies,” Bakker said. “We’re also the go-to college marketing company. A lot of our work is for ad agencies representing brands. We do a lot of different kinds of advertising — targeted e-mail, social media, mobile marketing, campus events, guerrilla marketing.”
Bakker acknowledges, “I have to work harder than a younger person to stay in touch with what’s going on. That’s going to become harder and harder. I’m learning operations skills that will take me to any other agency that wants to grow or any other company that wants to grow. In general as an agency the shelf life for Campus Media is infinite — every year there are new students on campus.”
What do people need to know about campus marketing?
We see a lot of brands that kind of come and go during back-to-school season. During back-to-school there’s a lot of noise to compete with. Students can smell the sell a mile away. When you’re courting this consumer segment, you need to commit to a multiyear strategy to reach them on campus. We typically have a two-pronged marketing approach: Online digitally and on campus physically. They can’t be fly-by-night companies.
What’s different about this market segment?
College students are not homogenous. A student in North Dakota is a lot different from a student in Orange County, California — and it’s not just how thick their jackets are. They have different mind-sets, different basic needs, a different mentality about everything from discretionary income to what they’re into. Brands need to tailor their message.
What’s the newest thing?
Mobile has been the biggest outlier for advertising. The way we can reach students on their cellphones is pretty remarkable. We can target right to campus by geofencing, to serve up ads on their phone as they enter that radius. Instagram is one of the fastest growing in popularity — we are seeing college students refocus more to Instagram than Facebook.
What advice would you give someone about college marketing?
Really use and experiment with latest technologies. That’s how you stay fresh.