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More Than Brains

Kelly Giles
Director of Marketing

The phrase, “rising from the ashes” is typically used in phoenix mythology. The University of Phoenix (UoP) is embracing its name, and claiming its students rise from hardships with a degree. Even further, the university aims to do a bit of rising itself, from the ashes of negative public perceptions.

UoP has launched a recovery campaign, called “We Rise,” to address some of the negativity surrounding their brand. We’ll go through some of the responses they have gotten thus far, and some of the takeaways for planning other campaigns.

Two vastly important elements of the campaign are a TV commercial with a rewritten version of “If I Only Had a Brain,” sung by the scare crow in the Wizard of Oz,

And a video educating the public on what it means to “rise.”

The brand’s message is clear: this is a place for tough students, who have what it takes to succeed. According to these videos, it is much more than an academic inclination. Social media immediately became the public’s outlet for voicing opinions, both positive and negative.

As with any campaign, some things are going well and others could be doing better. Here are a few takeaways to maximize your next campaign’s impact:

  1. Keep your brand’s message at the forefront of planning. It can be tempting to address negative perceptions directly, but that often ends with telling your audience a list of things you’re not. Instead, telling your audience what and who you are is much more impactful. UoP’s message is that they are a school that prepares strong students for life.
  2. Educate your audience on your message, as UoP did. Videos are an excellent medium to get the word out and address misperceptions, but there are certainly other ways to accomplish the goal.
  3. To avoid miscommunication or misrepresentation, include as many different perspectives while reviewing your ads as possible. If you don’t have a highly diverse team to work with, encourage everyone to play devil’s advocate and point out anything that someone from your target audience, or a stakeholder, might see. If you are a military veteran, what would you see? If you were of a different race, what would you see? If you were a traditional student here, what would you see?
  4. Thoroughness is essential. Go through a commercial frame-by-frame. Then ask, what is on-brand and what isn’t? Perhaps most importantly, make sure everyone in the review group is comfortable expressing any concerns. For tips on how to keep your creative platform open-minded, check out our All Hail the Outlaws post.
  5. If you have a social media element to your campaign, and it is highly recommended that you do, it’s best that you’re active and in-touch with each social platform both before and after the launch. UoP’s campaign name, We Rise, happened to overlap with a hashtag (#werise) that is currently being used to promote women rising in the world and overcoming gender-based barriers. Since UoP’s launch was within less than a month of International Women’s Day, UoP will have a hard time infiltrating that space with their own marketing.
  6. Respond to your supporters on social media, too! By letting them know you appreciate them, they are more likely to stick around and keep saying nice things.

As a final note, keep in mind that not all objections in the reviewing process need to be incorporated into the final product. Just because someone doesn’t like a specific shot, does not mean you need to take it out. It does mean you should find out the perceptions of the shot in question, and be aware that other people will see it in a similar way.

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