Higher education marketers have their work cut out for them these days. Over the past year, national media outlets have reported that student-loan debt has topped $1 trillion while news magazines including The Economist and Forbes have published articles that call into question the value of a college degree. Meanwhile, teens and twentysomethings are well aware of the success stories of college dropouts turned entrepreneurs—Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey, to name a few.
The University of California, one of the world’s largest public research universities, recently embarked on an effort to shore up its value proposition and confronted significant marketing hurdles along the way. The campaign, dubbed “Onward California,” was launched in the fall of 2012 and delivered a simple message: Given all of the insights, inventions and innovations produced by UC students, staff and alumni, the university has played a part in your day.
With a budget of $3.5 million, Onward California included an advertising campaign designed by Philadelphia-based branding firm 160over90 and focused on the people and inventions that improve life in California. Print ads ran in the major daily newspapers across the state, and digital ads ran on the papers’ websites and other ad networks. The university bought TV spots on cable news channels, and during UCLA and UC Berkeley football games.
Out-of-home placements included a 40-foot sign in the Oakland airport that read, “By the time you reach your destination, we’ll have a new invention,” a nod to the university’s four-patents-a-day productivity. In total, the campaign reached about 1.8 million readers via print publications and the digital component generated nearly 2.2 million impressions.
Meanwhile, a 25-foot gelato truck traveled the state, making 30 stops at all 10 campuses and at high-profile tourist destinations, including Venice Beach and the Santa Monica Pier, over eight weeks in September and October 2012. Created by San Francisco-based Grow Marketing, which specializes in engagement marketing, the tour reached more than 60,000 people, who got free gelato bars with the new UC logo on them. The tour also offered opportunities for participants to share their photos and experiences on social media.
OnwardCalifornia.com, the campaign’s website, received more than 113,000 unique visitors between May and November 2012. UC’s Facebook followers more than tripled during the campaign, according to the university. Moreover, in what could be considered, in part, a measure of the campaign’s impact, a key state ballot measure, Proposition 30, passed in November, saving California’s public schools and universities from further funding cuts.
To access the full article, check out the October 2013 issue of Marketing News at MarketingPower.com/marketingnews.