Choosing a university is one of the first major challenges students face when deciding to pursue a degree. Browsing through digital and traditional marketing materials will always be part of the decision making process, but in order to make these channels effective they need to have a unified message, co-ordinated visual approach and not try too hard. Like all consumers, students are constantly engaging with brands and are all too aware of when they are being sold to. In fact, whether they’re just starting to choose a university or already enrolled, what students want is to feel like they belong at their choice of university, not that they’re a commodity. In order to inspire this feeling, higher education (HE) establishments need to make sure they send out the right messages.
In a competitive market it’s more important than ever for HE establishments to fine-tune their messaging and connect with the true needs of their students – with the help of Masters Allen (MA), the University of Northampton (UON) is doing just that.
“We know that our students interact with us across a number of channels, and we wanted to ensure that we were sending them clear and consistent messages through all platforms,” comments Susan Parris, Marketing and Advertising Manager at UON. “Masters Allen helped us create a unified mixed-media approach which captures the personality of our establishment and provides a true representation of who we are and what we offer.”
Working with MA, the team devised a campaign that would promote the university’s core themes of encouragement and support, whilst still calling students to action.
“At UON we want to show students what we can do, not just tell them about it,” continues Susan. “With this in mind we put together an advertising campaign designed to get students to visit our website and campus so that they can experience what we provide on their own terms, and without any dated sales pitches. We’re not pitching to students with our advertising, we’re communicating, so we’ve kept our messages simple, unified and student-focused.”
Catering to the needs of students and attracting their attention is paramount, but they also have a wide network of decision-makers that they consult, and the needs of this audience also needs to be considered. The demand for a tangible prospectus was high, but the university also needed to be able to be flexible to account for any syllabus changes.
To overcome this challenge it was decided that the university would create a hybrid prospectus, made up of a distilled printed piece and an editable app. Both were designed to work together to highlight the information students wanted and needed without any hard sell. The app not only included details of the prospectus, but updates about the new campus, events, videos, case studies, open days and course details. The two were given a sense of unity by using pre-defined stylesheets, provided by MA.
“Through this mixed approach we believe we have developed a robust visual strategy that is not only engaging but still enables us to be agile and build on our content in the future,” says Susan. “We’re delighted to say we’ve seen some really positive reactions to our new branding and messaging from all audiences whether the target audience, staff or stakeholders. By increasing brand awareness our target markets know who we are, what we stand for and how we can help. We’re soon opening a new campus and, thanks to the work we’ve done, we knew exactly how to promote its benefits and position within the HE Sector.”