As part of the 2008 marketing research and creative development of marketing materials based on its finding, University Relations conducted focus groups at area high schools with several print concepts targeted to perspective undergraduate students.
First, we showed them undergraduate recruitment pieces from years past.
Some of the responses from high school students to these pieces were:
- “looks like every other school”
- “pictures look staged, fake”
- “not sure they’re talking about me”
- “doesn’t look like much is going on”
Next, we showed them undergraduate recruitment pieces based on the marketing research and new UM-Flint brand promise. These pieces focused particularly on portraying UM-Flint as a “premier urban center.”
Some of the responses from high school students to this concept included:
- “doesn’t look like a college brochure”
- “feels new, fresh”
- “has a big city vibe”
- “more going on”
- “I could see myself there”
The lesson UR took away from these sessions is that amidst the sea of materials and mediated messages prospective students find themselves, one of the best ways to break through the monotony is to accentuate “personality.”
This does not mean “be less academic, less prestigious.” Quite the opposite; it means that by putting such authentic, positive messages into the visual and written language of your intended audience, those same messages of “academic excellence” and “prestige” have a chance of actually being received, even remembered.
Granted, perspective undergraduate students in high school are different from perspective graduate students already in college or the workforce. However, the same idea holds true. They, like their younger counterparts, want to be communicated to on a human level – not an institutional level.
Strive for authenticity, realness. Look for ways to convey “intelligence,” “academic excellence,” and “prestige” without sounding like a mission statement or ivory tower. If higher education wants students to break out of their comfort zones, higher education cannot be afraid of breaking free from its. According to the research, it doesn’t have the choice.