Following a record-breaking year, Birkbeck University faced the daunting task of surpassing even higher targets for student recruitment. The campaign needed to reinforce the link between work and study, positioning Birkbeck as the solution for individuals seeking to balance existing commitments and career progression through evening study.
The challenge was to build on the previous year’s success and create a distinctive and engaging brand message that would drive awareness, engagement, and subsequent response, leading to increased applications and enrolments.
The campaign set five SMART objectives:
- Increase web traffic to the Birkbeck site by 20% year on year.
- Increase Facebook likes by 5% year on year.
- Increase Instagram follows by 10% year on year.
- Increase applications by 10% year-on-year across the entire course portfolio.
- Increase fee income by 5% year on year driven by a 5% increase in enrolments year-on-year across the course portfolio, for the 2020/21 academic year.
Defining the Campaign Strategy
The campaign strategy aimed to challenge misconceptions about Birkbeck as merely a “part-time” education provider. The goal was to communicate the university’s unique brand differentiator as a provider of evening study and a real-world solution for students with busy lives. The target audience included undergraduate and postgraduate prospects living in Greater London and the South East, spanning various age groups from 17 to 40+.
A detailed insight-gathering process laid the foundation for effective customer journeys.
- DataHE showed us who the competitors in our space were – we then reviewed their recent campaigns to give us a starting point of where we didn’t want to be – we had to challenge the status quo.
- Similarweb backed up our personas and by using its live behavioural data helped us understand barriers like work/life balance and age.
- Detailed personas based on 3 years of enquiry, application, offer and enrolment data informed the creative brief.
The strategy focused on strengthening the link between work and study, delivering a solution that fit around students’ existing commitments.
The communication plan followed a “Journey of Persuasion” across owned, earned, and paid media, employing the 4 P’s strategy (Proposition, Pertinence, Participation, and Proof).
The media and channel approach utilized integrated broadcast and digital channels. Broadcast channels such as TV Ch 4, Sky AdSmart, and DAX, along with digital radio, OOH, and print, supported brand awareness and Virtual Open Evening messaging. Pertinence was built through multiple formats on Facebook and Instagram, providing relevant and engaging content in a native environment. Display and social remarketing strategies captured responses, complemented by paid search for targeted audience harvesting.
Creative Cut through
We tested various concepts in student workshops to understand what was liked and what resonated. Then we started by exploring a series of puzzles – inviting people to solve playful problems – with a trade off of ‘if you can solve that perhaps we can solve something for you’.
The lead visuals utilised ‘Hootie’, the brand icon, to build recognition and develop a brand style / tone of voice.
In art direction we changed the puzzles to be generic, Halloween, summer, spring, valentines, etc. Having loads of fun above the line, in social and in user generated content (UGC). Tube car panels (TCP’s) quickly became the stand out media as they allowed dwell time for people to interact and work out the answers. The social amplification from TCP’s was incredible- with people posting answers, presenting other challenges and giving credence to Birkbeck for their thinking.
Generic / lead TCP
Birkbeck’s presence in TCP’s even starred on the BBC programme ‘Impossible’ whilst the campaign was live, the presenter commented – ‘You only have to travel into London to know the answer to this question! They’re all over the tube!’
Our eye-catching, illustrative brand campaign, stood out in a highly competitive marketplace. Our #problemsolved brand message targeted our audience incredibly effectively. Dynamic channels and clever content enhanced by real stories delivered action orientated proof points.
Example TV Ad:
Example Social Ad:
We even took our illustration into printed puzzles for people to solve in press!
Working Collaboratively with In-House Teams
The success of the campaign was a result of close collaboration with various in-house teams at Birkbeck University:
- We worked alongside the marketing team worked, developing organic content on owned channels that supported campaign objectives and themes aligned with paid advertising content.
- This team ensured owned platforms were consistent with the creative and messaging on paid channels, delivering a seamless customer journey across all channels. They also implemented tracking using Google Tag Manager to optimize digital advertising efforts.
Data/Market Insights Team
- The data and market insights team provided valuable support, informing the strategy with application and enrolment data. Regular updates on application and enrolment data allowed for tactical targeting, enhancing campaign performance.
The campaign achieved five SMART objectives:
- 25% increase in web traffic with 12.5 million page views compared to 9.5 million in the previous year.
- 6% increase in Facebook page likes, reaching 52.6k in September.
- Unbelievable 59.6% increase in Instagram followers, reaching 7.5k in September.
- 10% increase in applications year-on-year, with 21,690 applications for the 2020/21 academic year.
- 14% increase in fee income driven by a 6% increase in enrolments, surpassing the 5% target.
The campaign delivered a remarkable ROI, with an increase of £10,800,000 in organizational revenue against a campaign cost of £600,000, resulting in an £18 return for each £1 spent.
Plus, there was a huge increase in international students from USA and Saudi Arabia – we delivered a 92% increase in USA students (from 259 to 429) and a 1006% increase in students from Saudi Arabia (from 94 to 1,040 students
As you can see the results speak volumes, but also this was recognised by CASE: