On Integrated Marketing: One College’s Story of Transformation
Posted: December 15, 2015
I tell people all the time. The best part of my job is the work. Over the years I’ve contributed to some truly remarkable projects in partnership with institutions across the country. One of those clients, College of The Albemarle, recently celebrated the formal introduction of its new brand identity.
The new identity and messaging are one component of an integrated marketing strategy and plan approach we’ve developed in partnership with COA over the last year.
A year ago, COA was grappling with a steady enrollment decline, fueled by a growing lack of awareness and appreciation for the transformative power of a COA education. Despite the college’s historic presence in the Albemarle region, many of COA’s diverse audiences were generally unaware of what the college could do for them.
A Great Brand is a Great Story
While the formal introduction of the brand identity was indeed a momentous occasion for the college, COA knew that simply having a strong institutional brand wouldn’t work on its own. We often tell our clients that developing a strong brand promise is one thing; communicating that brand promise is another. As Paul Rand puts it, “a logo derives its meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around.”
That’s why COA didn’t stop with just the logo. Instead, COA found the courage to invest in a true brand-driven integrated marketing strategy. By investing into a long-term strategic plan, as opposed to purely tactical execution, COA could accomplish two transformational objectives: 1) strengthen its brand through consistent communications; and 2) align its finite marketing resources with the initiatives that have the greatest impact toward the college’s vision and mission.
The Components of VisionPoint’s Integrated Marketing Strategy Approach
There are five steps to VisionPoint’s process for building an Integrated Marketing Strategy & Plan:
1. Start with Your Goals
Specific, measurable objectives (e.g. increasing applications, enrollment, retention, brand awareness and philanthropic investment, etc)
2. Know Your Audience
Precise identification of your target audience, along with an understanding of their needs, goals, behaviors, motivating factors and decision-making processes
3. Know Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats
Clarification of your institution’s current resources, assets and positioning in comparison to its peers (e.g. culture, offerings, unique attributes and differentiators, values, etc.)
4. Develop High-Level Marketing Strategies
Actionable recommendations for leveraging your institution’s strengths and opportunities to achieve your goals
5. Determine Channels and Tactics
Documentation that informs timelines, budgets, reporting metrics and roles and responsibilities for the execution of the high-level marketing strategies
I Love it When a Plan Comes Together
The new COA brand centers around the idea of COA being a catalyst. Every COA student has a spark of potential within them. It’s the educational experience at COA, led by faculty staff who are mentors and champions, that is the catalyst for bringing that internal spark to life.
To deliver the messaging to those audiences most closely aligned with COA’s offerings, VisionPoint and COA developed a multi-channel marketing plan to nurture prospective students’ engagement with the college. At the foundation of the marketing plan are five strategies which, taken together, build top-of-mind awareness, strengthen connections with area high schools and promote COA’s transformational potential in previously underrepresented groups such as the region’s military community.
Over the next year, VisionPoint and COA will execute the marketing strategy and plan in true partnership together. Already we’ve seen the new messaging is elevating perception of COA’s mission and motivating target audiences to engage with the college more widely and more passionately than ever before.