What makes an award-winning HE marketing department? A Q&A with Emma Leech from Loughborough
With a killer ‘online-first’ strategy and creativity at it’s core, the Loughborough University’s marketing department is pretty well-renowned within the sector for their innovative campaigns, and have a few awards under their belt to prove it. Just last week, they scooped first place for the CIPR Excellence Awards’ Education Communications Campaign.
And that’s exactly why we asked their Director of Marketing and Advancement, Emma Leech, to speak at our upcoming Annual Summit for Digital Innovation in Education, and inspire you, her peers, to experiment with innovation in your own marketing strategies.
We caught up with Emma ahead of ASDIE to find out a bit more about Loughborough’s celebrated marketing strategy…
Hi Emma, big congratulations on your win at the CIPR awards last week! Can you tell us a bit about the winning campaign? Why do you think it was so successful? And where did the idea for this campaign come from?
We’re really pleased to have won a CIPR Excellence Award for Education Communications with our #LboroFamily Golden Ticket campaign.
Our idea focused on emotive appeal and share-ability as ways to create stand-out. The team identified what had previously worked well including selfie frames, PR and online content but sought new twists to keep Loughborough front of mind and ahead of competitors.
The Golden Ticket idea played into our overarching #LboroFamily thematic and our strategy hinged on driving traffic to a dynamic website and encouraging calls direct to our call centre.
The Golden Ticket selfie cut-through on social helped us own the space whilst our PR and digital content fuelled excitement and created huge online buzz and amplification.
Based on detailed market research and trend analysis, cutting-edge elements included personalised Golden Tickets – so popular we had scores of requests from current students, staff and alumni for ‘theirs’ – and a pace-setting content strategy linked to video, web, imagery, social media, audio and PR opportunities, all supported by a comprehensive bespoke website with real-time updates. Snapchat filters, the use of Boomerangs and content pieces including observations on the Clearing environment helped Loughborough stand out and picked up on non-HE best practice.
We delivered the most talked about clearing campaign in UK HE, smashing targets, raising profile and generating additional income of £4.6m for a total outlay of just £2,300. The halo effect has seen a stand-out boost in applications for 2017 despite a declining overall market.
We think it was successful because it grabbed attention, felt very personal and was different to anything else around. It also captured the excitement of results day and was much talked about by parents and teachers as well as by the students themselves – and the call to action to share with friends who might still be looking for a place worked exceptionally well for us.
Another of your campaigns was in the shortlist too! Where do you get your inspiration for all of these exciting campaigns?
Inspiration for our campaigns comes from right across the team and we have a really interdisciplinary approach to generating ideas, planning, and integrating what we do which is very special and it makes how we operate incredibly effective. I think the reason we generate so many good ideas is that the team is diverse and brings all sorts of different perspectives to the table – new tech, a detailed knowledge of operations, print/design and digital opportunities, comms angles etc – and nobody’s afraid to throw completely random ideas into the pot to get us started. We laugh a lot too but there’s usually the germ of a good idea or a tangential thought that kicks in as we talk things through. What makes it though, is that the team is hugely driven and really passionate about what they do. I’m pretty blessed.
What’s your favourite marketing campaign from outside of the sector?
Outside the sector, I like campaigns that make me think but which also resonate and hit a chord – often they spark thinking around angles for our own campaigns. I’m a big fan of the This Girl Can campaign which you may perhaps expect but I love the authenticity and the emotion it conveys. The fact that it challenges conceptions and is hugely empowering makes it stand out for me.
In your opinion, what is the most important technique or innovation that marketers should be thinking about this year?
There are lots of things around and it depends on the nature of your institution. There’s plenty of talk around marketing automation, chatbots and AI but I’m more of a fan of personalisation and I think we’ll be doing additional work around social and video this year and an increasing amount of work around channel development and content strategy. Sometimes it’s the simple things that reap the biggest rewards.
Finally, don’t give the game away, but can you give us a little taster of what your session will cover?
Well, I’m hoping to focus on how HEIs can break the mould and do different things digitally that remain strategic, and hit the bottom line without veering into “dad dancing” or unfeasibly expensive territory. I’m not a huge fan of controversial campaigns that bring out high numbers of haters or people who think the institutional reputation is being dumbed down. There’s a school of thought that says all publicity is good publicity – I don’t agree in the HE market where perception (and net promoter) scores are so critical. Better to engage and be different in a way that is universally popular rather than “clever” and divisive is my view.
I’ll be looking at trends and tech that can be used easily and effectively to make things happen that are creative and far from bland, but which aren’t simply gimmicky or bold for their own sake. I’ll also look at how you can move to an online first position in your own organisation and unlock potential quickly using the power of digital. See you there!
Speak to an expert at Net Natives to find out more about how we can help you attract and engage students through innovative marketing solutions. Or, pre-register to attend our next Annual Summit for Digital Innovation in Education in London on Thursday 19th July 2018.