How a marketing campaign can create a generation of new fans

creating awareness of the company brandHipsters, it would seem, are on their way out, if H&R Block’s recent collegiate marketing campaign is any indication. Responsibility, on the other hand, has begun to rear its mature head among millennials, particularly those who study in the nation’s universities. A marketing group that specializes in marketing to university students, AroundCampus, spearheaded a campaign that helped H&R Block showcase the advantages of their product—tax services and software—on several campuses in universities across the country.


For a generation for whom “work” was only a couple of years ago a four-letter word, these students responded to H&R Block’s effort to rebrand responsibility as a value to a generation whose favorite pastime, in earlier years, may have been listening to jazz in trendy coffee shops.


AroundCampus began by passing out promotional merchandise to students as they walked around campus and around town. H&R Block T-shirts, as well as scarves and water bottles—must-have accessories for health-conscious millennials—became a familiar sight on campus as the group built brand awareness with always-welcome freebies.


After creating awareness of the company brand of H&R Block, the group held informative talks both in and out of the classroom. They also gave presentations about how the tax giant could help the students meet their federal tax obligation while they built a legacy of responsibility that could last for a lifetime. The company offered students a discount on its services and created a sweepstakes event students could enter. Prize money, particularly to the tune of $15,000—the amount H&R Block allotted for the contest–never fails to attract money-starved students. This, however, was a sweepstakes with a millennial twist. Students could enter the drawing simply by sending a text message to the company.


After 12 weeks of the campus campaign, the marketing group assessed how well their unique combination of brand awareness, good vibes, and education performed. The results were stunning. For a generation that once eschewed work and responsibility, over a thousand students used H&R Block that year to file their income taxes.


Not only was the campaign a rousing success on campus, but it also spawned an actual market for H&R Block promotional gear. The tax company now sells—yes, sells—not only t-shirts, but also polos, sweaters, jackets, and even button-down shirts to the brand’s new fans. When a company has a brand that people will pay money to promote, one knows that their efforts to popularize their brand have been more than successful.


The taste of success—and of responsibility—that this marketing campaign created not only built brand awareness, but also created a generation of new fans. For a company whose stodgy reputation was for years “who Grandpa always hired to do his taxes” to ignite the loyalty of the millennial generation is simply stunning. Companies who need a rebranding campaign, such as H&R Block once was, would do well to take a page from the tax company’s marketing playbook for their next campaign.