Straight A Schools: Creative Ways to Market Education

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Post secondary education is a competitive segment of the marketing industry. There are numerous schools, all with advantages they try to sell and disadvantages that they try to hide when marketing their institutions. To shine some light on creative and ingenious ways to market educational institutions, we have gathered a list of examples, all of which used unique marketing methods in their campaigns. You might learn a thing or two about marketing from these schools without even being a student at them.

American University’s WONK Awards

The American University’s Wonk Awards is an interesting example of creative marketing. The university-wide campaign was crafted to promote the strengths and qualities that the university sees as fundamental, along with their brand objectives. The Wonk Awards, which began in 2010, are specifically designed to enhance the reputation of the school by underlying core values and qualities that the school wants people to associate with their university.  Winners of the Wonk Awards include Anderson Cooper in 2012, and Laura Bush, who won in 2015.  Since the inception and launch of the awards, the University has reported a 35 per cent increase of traffic to their website, a 21 per cent increase of page views, and an increase of applications of 25 per cent. More importantly, the university says that general campus awareness is up, and students seem proud to be attending American University, creating positive feelings and positive word-of-mouth marketing.

The University of Northern British Columbia

The University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) took an interesting spin on their marketing campaign based solely on the disadvantages of their competitors. The school, located in Prince George, B.C., saw the weakness in other major post-secondary institutions in BC – they’re abundance in the lower mainland, and designed a campaign highlighting their differences. Universities in the city, most specifically Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, the University of Victoria (UVic) and the University of British Columbia (UBC), all were competitive to get into and required living in a busy metropolis, which is expensive and not attractive to some students. UNBC started a campaign to highlight the fact that they were in a nice sized city – not too small, but definitely not the city – and the benefits to living in northern BC. They presented a lifestyle marketing campaign, and attracted students from the city to their institution based on what made them unique. And it definitely paid off.

Vancouver Island University

Vancouver Island University, located in Nanaimo, B.C., wanted to create a unique campaign that could be interactive for their students and highlight that the school was a university, and not a college or trade school. The school started the #ILearnHere campaign, and encouraged students to share their experiences of VIU on Instagram using the specialized hashtag. By using Instagram, they were able to target a younger audience and get them to participate and communicate with the school, attracting future potential students. The campaign was a huge success – in a mere six weeks, over 1,600 photos were shared with the hashtag garnering over 600,000 impressions. The #ILearnHere hashtag has become a vital part of their overall marketing campaign. In 2014, the campaign was awarded the IABC Golden Quill Award and the CPRS Award of Excellence. My Loud Speaker masterminded the whole thing too, just in case you were wondering.

Ozark Technical Communication College

Ozark Technical Communication College (OTCC) is a community college in Springfield, Missouri. From what it appears, the college probably isn’t that far off than the fictional reality of Greendale Community College portrayed in Community. However, the school launched a campaign in 2012 that was genius because of how simple it was. They made a commercial plainly showing the cost of other schools and colleges in the area. The 30-second commercial wasn’t too creative, didn’t use flashy colours and probably could have aired in the 80s without seeming out of place. They tailored the ad to run on local television networks, that showed they weren’t all about attracting high profile students. By targeting the local demographic, they showed they were the ideal school to start gaining a post-secondary education. It may not be glamorous, but it was impossible to argue with the facts they were presenting – OTCC was cheaper, and there was no question about it.  In a world of marketing glamour, tricks and ingenuity, sometimes a simple campaign goes a long way.

Just like marketing any other item or service, there are many ways to market an education. These are just a few examples of what can be done differently to set a school apart from the competition and highlight its benefits.

If you want to learn more about the Marketing of Higher Education, it might be valuable to read our Higher Education Marketing Strategies & Tips

Header Photo: Death to Stock

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Faye Alexander

Faye Alexander loves to type, scribble and scrawl because words are her favourite play things. As an editor, writer and social media professional, she brought her skill-set to the evolving world of Marketing. She has a passion for inciting meaningful dialogue through crafted content and opening doors to two-way conversations. Some of her favourite words include, but are not limited to: feminism, effervescent, spoon and malarchy.

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