Marketing to Millennials: How Campus Protein Conquered a Generation


According to the Center for Generational Kinetics, “Millennials are the fastest-growing generation of customers in the marketplace, bringing the greatest lifetime value”. Brands would be remiss if they didn’t take this ever-growing, extremely diverse market into consideration when strategizing sales.

So why is it so easy for Campus Protein founders, Russell Saks, Tarun Singh and Mike Yewdell to absolutely crush it when it comes to selling to the youth? Easy – they went to school with them.

Last week, Hubba had the pleasure of speaking with Russell and Tarun to further pick their brains on why campuses love them.

Hubba: What made you get started and why the focus on campuses?

Russell Saks: I’ve always been entrepreneurial. I’d never gone to the gym before but when I got to Indiana University, I joined a fraternity.

I started lifting weights with those guys and about once a month we’d take a trip over to our local health store and each drop up to $300 on supplements. These guys would prioritize their supplements over their drinking money. I said, “I’m sure it would be cheaper to buy online, why don’t you just do that?” and the response was, “we need these supplements TODAY.” It was even more of a necessity than I initially thought. If you were to buy this stuff online, it would take about 6-7 days before you actually got it. [Campus Protein’s] initial model was competitive online pricing and same-day delivery. We would actually hand-deliver to the customer the same day.

We quickly expanded at Indiana University with the help of my friend and now business partner Mike Yewdell who lived in the fraternity across the street from me. The summer of 2010, I went home and sold Tarun on the idea. He saw a lot of the same problems in Boston that I saw in Indiana, so he expanded the model to Boston university and soon, to the entire Boston area.

H: Talk to us a little bit about your on-site promos and campus reps?

Tarun Singh: When we first started, it was really just us asking different friends from different colleges, “do you have some people you can recommend?” Eventually, we got to the point we are at now, where at any given time we have up to 5000 applicants pending to be Campus Reps. We educate and train all of them to make sure they know their fair share about supplements, ingredients, recipes and brands, so that when they

are on campuses, they know what they’re talking about. Each rep gets a care package which includes flyers, stickers and any materials that will allow them to do on-campus events.

H: How do you merge that with social?

T: One of the features of that is sampling. For example, we would work with a brand and do a campus takeover at a school. They would create a hashtag or tag us and when they do that we create enough buzz on social that it’ll eventually convert to sales. Our reps are not trained to be pushy with a sale, they’re trained to help whoever is asking questions. First and foremost, their job is to be an educator when it comes to supplements and sports nutrition.

H: What social channels are you using?

T: Social is a big deal for us as you can imagine. Our entire demographic is reliant on it. For us, I’d say Instagram is one of the best social tools that we use; not just for awareness and how successful we’ve been in terms of customer and user engagement, but also the conversion to sale is the highest.

After Instagram I’d say it’s pretty much a toss up between Snapchat and Facebook. We were one of the first people in our industry that really embraced Snapchat and took on the true value of having a presence on that platform and it really paid off. We have a great Snapchat following. In terms of setup and execution, it’s probably one of our most complex social tools. We have our reps takeover and show customers a live view of their lifestyle so it really humanizes the brand. I think that’s really important.

Twitter is great for us in terms of how much customer engagement we get.

H: How do you track a conversion of sale on something like Instagram?

T: This was kind of tough for us initially too. We try to require the customer to do something that is only listed on Instagram. For example, we post a specific sample and say, “if you want this sample in your next order, write a funny word in the comments.” Then we track how many people actually did it by taking note of how many orders line up with the post. Another thing we are able to see is how many people click the link in our profile’s bio. We can track the referral directly from Instagram.

H: If you have one suggestion for brands and retailers looking to use Snapchat as a potential social tool, what would you say?

T: What people need to realize is Snapchat wasn’t made for brands. Find a way to put a human touch to your brand – be consistent, creative and fun with it. I know it sounds cliché but that’s exactly what we’ve done. That’s one of the tools where we’re not afraid to experiment, push the envelope a little and try new things constantly. And customers will give us feedback! They’ll tweet us and say something like, “today’s Snapchat takeover was really awesome!” The fact that they’re going out of their way to reach out to us means that they’re taking the time to actually watch that story. We have to do a good job at making sure that that story is worth watching.

Dayana Cadet

Dayana Cadet

Dayana’s love affair with writing spans all manner of content. As the Content Specialist at Hubba, connecting people to the things they love is where she thrives.

Follow her at @D_isforDayana
Dayana Cadet