The stats weren’t exactly promising. When Paradowski was tapped in 2016 to present concepts for a new and invigorated enrollment campaign, St. Louis Community College (STLCC) had been facing years of declining enrollment numbers, often in double digits in a highly competitive higher education market. In fact, enrollment rates at four-year universities and community colleges have been declining across the country.
Finding creative solutions to stimulate dropping enrollment was not the only challenge in this endeavor. (It never is, and that’s what keeps our jobs exciting.) We needed to develop a fully integrated campaign in 40 working days—keeping within the confines of a very lean budget and incorporating a pre-existing media buy with a separate partner.
In addition, STLCC’s existing digital properties and online admissions are multi-owner websites that lie outside the reach of the marketing team.
After identifying our hurdles, we locked them away in a closet in our brains and focused on campaign strategy. As an institution offering efficient and effective two-year degree programs, we decided to turn what was once seen as a shortcoming into a strength for non-traditional students who wanted to get an education while having real, adult lives.
STLCC’s new campaign, we decided, would empower students to customize their higher education experience with low monetary risk. The messaging would be straightforward; the takeaway would be unforgettable. Embracing the flexibility of the STLCC system, every person in any walk of life was free to find the best version of themselves.
To add an air of authenticity, we worked with our colleagues at STLCC to identify real students and teachers to be featured in the campaign. The media mix included broadcast radio (five spots), out-of-home billboards (five versions), on-campus print collateral and digital media, such as pre-roll (six videos), various display units and Pandora audio spots.
We believed that creating a successful campaign included a custom microsite—steering audiences toward a digital campaign experience where motivated prospects could follow intuitive, easy-to-navigate steps for application and enrollment.
Knowing that retention is a large part of STLCC’s business needs, we looked at their eight campuses around the greater St. Louis area as an opportunity for engaging OOH installations. Our team paid a visit to all of them and was inspired by our surroundings. And so, we created a stair wrap and table tops with our key art, to remind students why they attend STLCC when they least expect it.
We also developed a game that continued to challenge student’s minds. Our kiosk held key campaign art as a scrambled puzzle. Once completed, we gathered student emails in exchange for a chance to win money to the bookstore. We decided to begin with a single kiosk to learn its value—a pilot program, if you will. Our first installation was placed in the heavily-trafficked Florissant Valley campus.
Key campaign performance indicators from the first campaign 3/20 – 4/20/17 (first 30 days) as demonstrated by the microsite analytics were as follows: 13,249 sessions; 20,343 pageviews; 900 actions; 50 percent more pageviews compared to previous campaign. Activity generated from pre-roll contextual ads: 259,253 completed views and 4,056 clicks.
Considering the volume of activity and number of key conversions to apply, STLCC expected to see an overall increase in enrollment for the first time in many years. And did they ever. Our client reported a 12% overall increase in enrollment. This not only represents a turnaround for the college, but demonstrates Paradowski’s ability to help it outsmart competitors in a vertical that has been plagued with flat or negative enrollment statistics.