The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 3 · 1 year ago

Creating an Adaptable Brand Promise in the Age of Social Media


On today’s episode, Bart Caylor, President & Founder at Caylor Solutions Inc, and Troy Singer, Senior Account Executive at Think Patented, chat with Deedie Dowdle, Vice President for Communications and Marketing at DePauw University about:

- Working internally to create university marketing campaigns

- Creating a brand promise that captures your university’s core values

- Engaging students, professors, and alumni in the creative process

- Evolving current and future university marketing campaigns

Know of a higher education marketing change agent you’d like to hear on the show? Does your university have an interesting story to be featured?

Connect with Bart Caylor or Troy Singer. If you’re not on LinkedIn, check the Caylor Solutions or Think Patented.

To hear more interviews like this one, subscribe to The Higher Ed Marketer on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform.

The best friend promises out there are those, in my opinion, that people begin to define for themselves, and when you let go with that control a little bit and let others define and make it personal to themselves, you find out things that and possibilities and created the jam even thought us. You were listening to the Higher Ed Marketer, a podcast geared towards marketing professionals in higher education. This show will tackle all sorts of questions related to student recruitment, dontor relations, marketing trends, new technologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversations centered around where the industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into the show. Welcome to the High Reed Marketing podcast. I'm Troye singer and I'm here with my cohost, Bart Taylor. How is it going today, Bart try? It's going well. Thank you for asking. How about you? I am wonderful and, as always, excited to get into our conversation with today's Higher Reed Marketer. Today our topic is branding for your school. Branding is a word that we often toss around, but it isn't as easy as it seems. Tell us about the day's guests, bar yeah, we're going to be talking to DD doubt all she has the vice president of marketing and communications at Depaul University and it's going to be a good conversation because I think you're right. We often consider branding to be a lot of things that it is and isn't. I mean sometimes it gets confused with the low go or with the Tagline, but I think is deed. He's going to explain to us it's a lot more than that and it's really a way to really differentiate your school. So true. So, without any further ado, I'm excited to welcome D D Dabble, vice president for Communications and marketing that the Paul University, to the conversation. Thank you for joining this, D D. Thank you. It's good to good to be here. Troy and bar DD, before our professional conversation, could you share one or two things about your personal life to give everyone a flavor about who you are? Well, I don't know, it seems like in a year with a pandemic, it's maybe do we all still know who we are? We're gotten to know where fills better or maybe gone a little crazy. But that's so. I am at the Paul University. I've been here for three years and I have been in higher in for longer than I care to mention and prior to that worked in agency business, much like Taylor Solutions, outside of the House and private sector. So it's been an interesting run, although I think all of us in highered would say nothing has been more interesting than than the past year or so. You know I'm but I'm I consider myself lucky to pause a great place and it's an interesting time to be part of a higher in, probably more than even if it's not fun, certainly interesting. That's great. And DD when we first spoke about doing the podcast, you were telling us a little bit about the new branding campaign that the par recently launched. Maybe you can tell us little bit more about that as we kind of get into the professional part of the conversation. Sure, jotted down a few notes here because it seems like it's been I guess we launched it in two thousand and nineteen, in the latter half of two thousand and nineteen, which was interesting because we did things in a little bit of a reverse order. I could say. I would not recommend this at home. It's not the typical way that we would want to do things and I think in higher education institutions I worked at previously, branding was very much about doing that research, doing all that homework, engaging your constituents, and that is are tried in through process. That's desirable. However, because of the number of things that were happening at the Pau and surrounding to pause at that point, including a presidential transition, we had to put some things on pause and so we and we shared the campaign idea and creative and when I say the campaign, it was the brand, really a brand promise that we had and some research discovery we had done from the past couple of years with the trustees in the cabinet over the summer and they really liked it and didn't want to...

...delay despite the presidential transition, and so we launched as students were coming in that fall of two thousand and nineteen. And then, as you know, we were in market for five months and the bottom fell out of the world and the bandemic kit and so right about the time we're ready for measuring all those results and that that happened. Prior to that it seemed to be going really well. There was a lot of enthusy asn't and despite the fact that our constituents didn't see it in advance, they sort of saw it as it was rolling out. We had done enough testing to know that the idea of gold within, which was the brand promise that encapsulates what Depauli is and what we stand for, we had done enough for search to know that it would resonate. Were pretty confident in that, and so we did those three and forty presentations with constituents. At the same time we were rolling out and market and art. I believe you saw some of that in Indianapolis. Exce's the that's our major market where we willing a lot of it. Yeah, I was very impressed with it and I think that it's a great testimonial to your to your campaign, in the fact that you know that gold within I think says a lot about the paw and kind of what that's all about, and then to be able to just see the the outcomes on the on the billboards. I think that was such a smart move to do it that way. And and you kind of talked a little bit about some of the challenges with the presidential transition and then with the pandemic and then also just kind of the the order that you had to do things. What did you have to do anything else as far as really pivoting in the midst of the pandemic? I mean I'm guessing that even some of the messaging that you were doing for enrollment had to shift a little bit just because campus visits stopped. You know, there was a lot of other things. Absolutely we had to really hit pause on everything. There was, as most of us did, when schools, when a lot of colleges were closing and sending students home. We were still very much in the beginnings of this virus where we didn't know what what was causing it, where it was coming and we didn't know what we know today, and so there was no way that you can try to be out there with positive advertising and all of the all of the wonderful things that we were doing at and those two things that just don't go together at all. So so we did have to hit pause. We felt like we had a lot of momentum going into it, but we felt it was the right thing to do to hit pause on that and to get through the rest of the turn and number one priority at that point became taking care of our students making sure they got home safely. Everything shifted to internal and focus on the students and certainly taking care of our staff back at that time. So other than outdoor, which of course was contracted, everything else was put on hold until this fault when we relaunched efforts great again. Great. One of the things I think we did do prior to that that we loved about the campaign was we asked alumni to participayment, and so what we did in Indianapolis area we found those outstanding alumni and also students from local schools in Indianapolis and we featured them on the outdoor boards as representing that quality, that outseeing not just academic but overall student experience, that the Paul and outcomes that that leads to, which is that gold standard, the gold wooden touches on. And so we had very prominent alumni, everyone from Brad Stevens who in the Indianapolis area. We had the CEOS and CFOs and broadcasters, just terrific alum I who didn't even hesitate. The minute they saw the concept there they said we're in, and you know there was no cost to that. They were happy to participate. So you know it was rolled out. Literally all of the creative work was done internally and rolled out and in nine days we launched that outdoor campaign. was almost thirty participants, different individuals in it who are willing to be highlighted, and you told me in advance we would have been able to do that. If I had time to think about it. Yeah, what if? So, how are you? How are you? Obviously you have some great stories. I mean thirty alumni. Are you? How are you kind of...

...transitioning that into like your alumni magazine and other ways? Are you? Are you kind of taking that content and then repurposing it in other ways? Yes, absolutely so, online and with our students. We've spent a lot of time asking students now. Once, once we sort of figured our pathway forward in the pandemic and students started returning to classes or hybrid and even our remote students, we ask them what you know? What is it the gold within means to you, because the best brand promises out there are those, in my opinion, that people begin to define for themselves. And when you let go of that control a little bit and let others define and make it personal to themselves, you find out things that and possibilities and created the Ja hadn't even thought of. So a lot of our students just said here's what that means to me, and then we ask our professors what does what does that mean to you? And internally on us the interview that on campus we have banners featuring our faculty all over campus so that students can meet the first year cinem our faculty on those banners and and just calling out their quality of gold within the classroom experience and video and social we carry that through the Hashtag just got going to gold with them Hashtag whenever we talk about someone who's done something wonderful on their career pathway or in terms of service or giving, and we call that that gold within spirit, which of course relates to our spirit color, which is that bold goal. And bringing all of that together with the more we've done, the more we said, wow, we can do this and we can do this, and that's that's what I love about a brand of concept and a brand promise that is malleable and adaptable and it just kind of takes along life of its own and that's when you know, I think you've got some magic. That's pretty cool, that's great and so I want to go back to something you said earlier, because you've got you said that you did most of it internally. We've done some work together det out. Just kind of say that you know. So everybody knows that. But I know that you have a pretty small staff. So you know, tell me about the staff makeup and how you were able to pull off what you've done, because you know a lot of schools that are listening to this, they might have just a very small marketing department, maybe one, two or three, maybe five people. I know there are other schools. State schools often have thirty, forty, fifty. I know that Eden Ethan Braden was on a couple weeks ago on the podcast and he's at perdue and he said I have four hundred people on campus. It you have something to do with communications. To Pat doesn't have four hundred people in marketing and communications. But tell us about the makeup of your of your department and how, I'm sure people wear different hats and do different things. Rolling out a brand campaign on your own. There's a lot of factors. So I will qualify that the same. First of all, yes, we have a small team. I would I call him small, but mighty super creative and and just. But we really didn't have when I came aboard, we did not have a central marketing communications department. It was there were really just for people who primarily did designs. So we really just introduced this after two years of building that core central team to serve as the you know, the entire campus to support and consult with, and most of that was done by just tremendous talent that was located throughout the university that came together in a central arm so that we could probably those resources. And of course we had outstanding partners in our enrollment and development and advancement areas, and so that helps. And we have all those alumni who helped make up for some of that marketing team we don't have. But I hear exactly what you're saying. Or my previous university, which is actually Miami University, we had had more than an I know Jamie's going to be a guest on delightful and wonderful place. Prior to that I was at Auburn and I'm accustomed to having forty something people in the central, you know area. So having fourteen to do that who you know, we had help with research in terms of the past couple of years. When I first came in there was a firmed that during the transition to my role, was doing some marketing research and some personality research on what to Paul is like, and then...

...very briefly we transition to an external agency to help us take that forward and sort of modernize it and refresh it. So they helped us with getting that concept down and then, because our budget is small, then we sort of took it and has some enrolled it out ourselves. So but yeah, it was primarily the internal team and we have, you know, a design team, we have a small wet team that moved over from the ITER ISS area of campus and we have a project manager and I think we all work about eighty hours a week. We have writers the magazine. Also we had a new editor and she was able to incorporate the gold within and especially as the new president came in, very important there that your ultimate brand champion at any university as university president. And so Dr Lori White came in on July first and under the theme of gold within. You know, we embraced her and welcomed her and she has continued to carry that forward and to tie that meaning directly to our core values. So what we like a lot about gold within other than the looking at Our Name, to Paul, which is spelled DPA uw that AU is the symbol for gold, and seeing that and having that pointed out to us. We have been using gold and had terrip it, test responses and advertising, terrific results and very prompt and we just couldn't take it to that next and the minute we saw that were it was one of those dumb you know what's right there in our night. I thought that was extremely clever. Just to be able to pull out that a you with a box around it. I just thought was brilliant. It was a lot of fun. So and actually that's something that just opened up all sorts of opportunity playing off gold and bold and just the idea of that gold standard of the academics which we believe the liberal arts experience for lives. It just all interest. Everything sort of connected at that point. And then, so again we had a new president who coming in during a pandemic, which is a whole podcast right there, right becoming a new president a pandemic and historically at that, the first black present, first be no, president for the paw making history, and she has it. She has directly connected gold with into who we are and what we stand for and our core values, which not sure if that directly answers your questions. A little bit of rambling, but they're just so many components there. Now that's that's excellent. So regle to reinforce that and even include it when moving forward with a new strategic planning effort and very much those core values and that idea of gold within is a broad thing within that strategic planning as well. DD. Kudos to you and you're small and mighty team. If you could help us understand how many different departments or stakeholders did you have to go to or to work with, and how did that small and mighty team engage ship? Wow, that's a great question. We had a lot of departments. Again, enrollment managemment very key to that process, the mission counselors carrying it out, teams bringing forth. We had the internal team, my team concept at an idea at the very end of all of two thousand and nineteen. Like goodness, it's all blur, but it followed two thousand and nineteen of sending off the students into their final exams with a big event and we called it to Choo Choo at the call. We love to play with the D of Her name and add it towards it's just a little thing we do. And and we called it to Chot and we actually rented a train that went up, you know, up and down for part walk in the main central area of campus and gave students lifts and we handed out swag and and gold within cookies that were gold within and and t shirts and they all but, you know, and just and hot chocolate and just really the tight stuff, tigers with the gold of the in Tshirts, the keychains, you know, the whole thing, and just made it a big fun event. And and in the middle of winter and it was breezing, but it was it was wonderful instand. Of course, staff and...

...faculty very much part of that and that's what's been key, I think, as we had so many staff and faculty embrace it and and really seem to be saying this is what we've been waiting for, something that that showcases the kind of quality education that the Paul provides. That really, we like, captures it. There are many universities out there that are certainly small, all private universities, small classes right that are showcase or definitely who we are, those relationships with faculty members. But how do you define all that? And At de Paul we were able to define it within the scope of a color that represents a really gold spirit. It just became it. When you hit something that just hits the right note and everybody felt like they could own it. Our HR department, human resources, has a gold learning academy. They have the gold you know, they're wrapping honors for the year within that gold them just carrying that through. So so I would say so many people across campus embraced it, not the least of which the faculty and staff in many departments and Roman advancement career service it. You know, the Hubbard Center that we had, the Prindle Institute for Ethics, we so many of our centers and institutes. Everyone just said we can make this and adapted in a way that fits our individual area that also unites with the campus. And so I would say it's kind of a long winded answer, but I would say we, as part of the development of the brand, we developed a messaging hierarchy that said, you know, it's not just the brand promise, it's what are those pillars? And so we had forty five main pillars, which is the gold standard education. You know all about the outstanding faculty and how they mentor our students and those small classes. Incredibly you are incredibly successful alumni. We are. We have just a for a small university, just a unheard of level of I I've never really does. One of the reasons I came to the Paul was that. So that was a pillar, the launch pad for leaders. We were known for leadership programs for students, and then the goal commitment, which which basically says we stand behind our you know, ninety eight percent of our students are successful when within six months of graduation, and we stand behind the outcome of every degree. And then the powerful support network. So we had those brand pillars and then with in each of those pillars, every department on campus can then have the proof points that prove out each of those pillars and what they stand for, so you can adapt the message across departments but also at the university. Yeah, that's that's great and I particularly like the fact that, and I you know, I run across this so many times because you've really got a differentiate yourself from everyone else. I mean you can't use the typical we've got small class sizes were, you know, mentors for your teachers. Everybody can say that. That's in a certain range of small private to small to medium private colleges. But I really like the fact that you've taken this this branding campaign, the messaging that goes with it and actually to find it out so that everyone on campus can actually have the ability to articulate that very well, whether it's a professor or faculty others. I think that's that's that was great. So tell me a little bit. What are the plans moving forward? I mean, this is in place coming out of the pandemic. You know, how are you going to continue to kind of put the fuel back in the tank and get it moving? We might just happen, we might just get out of we really do so. So we the previous class because we rolled out midway through the year. Of course, that class that came in the fall of two thousand and twenty had not seen gold within yet because we it was we, they were here. So it actually this next class of two thousand and twenty one will be the first incoming class that will be able to carry that being forward through for four years right, and so that's what you want, is that longevity behind a campaign. So we're looking forward to that and we're looking forward to so much of the brand promise of gold within is those interactions on campus. So I do. I'm just looking really forward to the interactions that naturally will pave...

...the way towards more ideas around the concept, but but certainly with video, once we can get back on in class and on the campus, evolving more. As with the incoming class and what they think and their first impressions of gold within, we have those in mine. We have more faculty that we want to showcase and other alumni lined up who are in students, especially recent graduates, who are eager to participate in the campaign and and have asked to be part of that. And the storytelling, let's not the storytelling is a huge part of that. Telling. That a Paul Story. On our home page and elsewhere. We try to weave in that the experience and the stories of how people are using their to Paul experience to live out their lives and wrap that within the content of gold within. So we have just tremendous like colum the social media guy, because he's just got a bring such a great sense of humor and and just real strategy there that where he brings out a sort of natural bubbling up of ideas just from the Pete, from from our constituents and our stakeholders that naturally arise just because of the way he approaches social media. And so none, nothing is scripted, and that's what we really like about this brand. But but we do we're very excited because we did in two thousand and nineteen, right as the pandemic hint we got notified that we want national gold at the case circle excellence for compressially just institutional branding. Hey, we had to bring it home to the Midwest because Syracuse. We we be out Syracuse with very good laugh that they actually have a trrific campaign too. So we were very excited and so that that that they gave us some affirmation that we needed that we were on the right track. And really I feel like it's just the beginning. We're just really wanting to get back on dd you gave accolades to your social media person and said that they do a great job of bringing out stories, and I would like to say I think the same of you and as I've gotten to know you before and during our talk today, I definitely think you have a knack for portraying the story. As we kind of bring this to a close, we try to give at least one takeaway to our listeners that they may be able to apply right away. So, as you think about this brand refresh, what one or two things do you think that you've learned from that experience that you could give to them? You know, I really think I touched on it already and maybe it could be a little more clear, but I think, and certainly I've experienced this at previous institutions and even in the corporate sector. Private sector is that used to be that brands are the idea of branding was something that entities controlled, organizations controlled, and this is an era of social media at that, you know, shows no end in sight, and I've really found that when you let go a little bit of that control and let things sort of bubble up like water in a sprain, you know, you let that magic happen, I really think that's when. Yet there they'll always be negative things that happen. Positive things that happened there with there will be. But if you let people define things in their own way and then let that guide you in your creative efforts. That's one thing I've learned that has worked better, I think it to pall, than anywhere I've ever been, is that people didn't obsess over what's that, what's that out? Exact outcome. We've been willing to let go a little bit and let others take some ownership of the brand promise, and that's how you're small but mighty team becomes mightier exactly. It's a great group. I'm really excited, I should say. You know that with the new president, who is just well, talk about Petit, petite and mighty. She probably or eleven. I mean so much energy. She is out and about on that campus, even in this pandemic, and I think she's already exemplify that goal within spirit. So I think skies a linen. DD. I want to express much gratitude on behalf of Bart...

...and I. I've enjoyed this conversation and I'm sure I can say the same for Bart and. I believe that we've achieved our goal of putting out insights and ideas that people other marketers can glean from. So thank you for your time. Well, thank you, and I know on behalf of some other high edit marketers out there, this is wonderful thing you're doing. We're happy to just thank you into everyone out there. The Higher Ed Marketer podcast is sponsored by Taylor solutions and education, marketing and branding agency and by Think, patented, a marketing, execution, printing and mailing provider of Higher Reed Solutions. On behalf of my cohost Bart Taylor, I'm troy singer. Thank you for joining us. You've been listening to the Higher Ed Marketer. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you're listening with apple PODCASTS, we'd love for you to leave a quick rating of the show. Simply tap the number of stars you think the podcast deserves. Until next time.

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