Capturing audience attention in a densely populated, highly fragmented, international, multicultural higher education marketplace can be a daunting, flummoxing, frustrating, head-banging, hand wringing, thankless marketing experience. So when a plan comes together; when it sings, and the results are better than expected, it’s simply brilliant to see.
And marketing brilliance is what this year’s International Brand Master, Emma Leech, Director of Marketing Communications at England’s University of Nottingham, offers up. Brilliance born not out of a stroke of luck or circumstance, but out of a real understanding of the art and science of branding. One that starts with the adherence to the fundamental tenets of marketing:
- be clear about what the brand stands for;
- know who your audience is and how they consume information;
- be strategic in how you reach them.
- take a disciplined approach to executing the planned strategy.
In 2011, Leech and her Nottingham team were tasked with:
- developing and implementing a global brand framework for the University, which also has campuses in China and Malaysia.
- creating a campaign – one that would go on to win multiple awards.
- increasing profit/market share, which would achieving targets significantly in excess of those projected.
The team’s attention to detail is evident. Visuals and messaging are bang on the brand – succinctly expressed by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’ – and are consistent across campuses and across media platforms. There is also great integration of print and digital through video. Print pieces include URLS and QR codes to online videos that bring the print experience to life. The University’s multi-million-pound capital campaign is also tightly tied to the University’s overall brand look and feel.
Here are some examples of print and digital pieces:
Perhaps what impresses me most about Leech and the Nottingham team is their intrinsic understanding of the potential of digital and social media in today’s marketing environment; and their ability to adapt those channels appropriately to “harness modern word of mouth” as Leech puts it.
In particular, Leech took the time to understand what digital mediums were used by the University’s global audiences and to what extent. The team then focused on just those mediums, while not being overwhelmed by committing to all the mediums or focusing on just one. That also meant not grasping at all the “shiny” new objects that appear in this marketplace. For example, Leech and her team stayed focused on making all their digital communications mobile friendly as the use of mobile browsers was high among their audiences, but delayed jumping on the “app” train until all foundational elements of their digital strategy were in place.
Additionally, the team saw the PR potential of blogs to position the expertise at the University and worked collaboratively with the various faculties to develop a blog series, nicely packaged at this URL and also promoted on the web pages of the blog initiators. In particular, the Faculty of Political Science received national attention for its blog called Election 2010. Blogs are not simply written pieces. This acclaimed and entertaining video blogging series, called the Periodic Table of Videos, the brainchild of filmmaker Brady Haran in conjunction with the Faculty of Science, along with two other series, Test Tube and Sixty Symbols, are exceptional examples of modern communication that can be educational, entertaining, and a great way to convey the feeling of the education and the caliber of faculty at the University. They are also appealing to both prospective students as well as influencers. While the marcom unit did not initiate these activities, they are leveraging their marketing potential by ensuring they are easily recognized as products of Nottingham and are promoted on the University’s site.
Overall, results have been stunning:
- An over £200k savings in the marketing plan, despite being created within existing budgets.
- Significant increases in recruitment across all campuses.
- Nottingham became the third most popular university in the UK with undergraduates.
- A 295% jump in monthly active Facebook fans and a doubling of engagement levels
- The launch of one of the UK’s first HE Foursquare sites
- An increase of 300% in iTunesU downloads with more than 600k downloads by the end of 2011 and 1.5 million subscribers overall.
- YouTube usage doubled
- Despite limited paid advertising, SEO helped build solid international brand awareness in key markets.
In the modern marketing age, it is the ability to develop, harness, and package a rich digital imprint – those elements initiated by marcom and those created by others; pages directly on the University’s website as well as those created on other servers – to create a compelling sense of brand, reputation, and brand experience that, added to expert use of traditional marketing methods, makes Leech an International Brand Master.
A well-deserved congratulations!
Colleagues in the higher education marketing field will be able to glean inspiration from Ms. Leech as EMG will honor her with a series of guest blogs and video interviews during the coming months. Also, more information regarding Emma Leech winning the 2011 International Brand Master Award can be found here.
Images provided by Emma Leech.