The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 3 · 10 months 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 arethose, in my opinion, that people begin to define for themselves, andwhen you let go with that control a little bit and let others define andmake it personal to themselves, you find out things that and possibilities and createdthe 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 allsorts of questions related to student recruitment, dontor relations, marketing trends, newtechnologies and so much more. If you are looking for conversations centered around wherethe industry is going, this podcast is for you. Let's get into theshow. Welcome to the High Reed Marketing podcast. I'm Troye singer and I'mhere with my cohost, Bart Taylor. How is it going today, Barttry? It's going well. Thank you for asking. How about you?I am wonderful and, as always, excited to get into our conversation withtoday's Higher Reed Marketer. Today our topic is branding for your school. Brandingis a word that we often toss around, but it isn't as easy as itseems. Tell us about the day's guests, bar yeah, we're goingto be talking to DD doubt all she has the vice president of marketing andcommunications at Depaul University and it's going to be a good conversation because I thinkyou're right. We often consider branding to be a lot of things that itis and isn't. I mean sometimes it gets confused with the low go orwith the Tagline, but I think is deed. He's going to explain tous it's a lot more than that and it's really a way to really differentiateyour school. So true. So, without any further ado, I'm excitedto welcome D D Dabble, vice president for Communications and marketing that the PaulUniversity, 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 yourpersonal life to give everyone a flavor about who you are? Well, Idon't know, it seems like in a year with a pandemic, it's maybedo we all still know who we are? We're gotten to know where fills betteror maybe gone a little crazy. But that's so. I am atthe Paul University. I've been here for three years and I have been inhigher in for longer than I care to mention and prior to that worked inagency 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 inhighered 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 placeand it's an interesting time to be part of a higher in, probably morethan even if it's not fun, certainly interesting. That's great. And DDwhen we first spoke about doing the podcast, you were telling us a little bitabout the new branding campaign that the par recently launched. Maybe you cantell us little bit more about that as we kind of get into the professionalpart of the conversation. Sure, jotted down a few notes here because itseems 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 wedid 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 wewould want to do things and I think in higher education institutions I worked atpreviously, branding was very much about doing that research, doing all that homework, engaging your constituents, and that is are tried in through process. That'sdesirable. However, because of the number of things that were happening at thePau and surrounding to pause at that point, including a presidential transition, we hadto put some things on pause and so we and we shared the campaignidea 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 fromthe past couple of years with the trustees in the cabinet over the summer andthey really liked it and didn't want to...

...delay despite the presidential transition, andso 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 monthsand the bottom fell out of the world and the bandemic kit and so rightabout 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 lotof 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 doneenough testing to know that the idea of gold within, which was the brandpromise that encapsulates what Depauli is and what we stand for, we had doneenough 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 thesame time we were rolling out and market and art. I believe you sawsome of that in Indianapolis. Exce's the that's our major market where we willinga lot of it. Yeah, I was very impressed with it and Ithink that it's a great testimonial to your to your campaign, in the factthat you know that gold within I think says a lot about the paw andkind of what that's all about, and then to be able to just seethe the outcomes on the on the billboards. I think that was such a smartmove to do it that way. And and you kind of talked alittle bit about some of the challenges with the presidential transition and then with thepandemic and then also just kind of the the order that you had to dothings. What did you have to do anything else as far as really pivotingin the midst of the pandemic? I mean I'm guessing that even some ofthe messaging that you were doing for enrollment had to shift a little bit justbecause campus visits stopped. You know, there was a lot of other things. Absolutely we had to really hit pause on everything. There was, asmost of us did, when schools, when a lot of colleges were closingand sending students home. We were still very much in the beginnings of thisvirus where we didn't know what what was causing it, where it was comingand we didn't know what we know today, and so there was no way thatyou can try to be out there with positive advertising and all of theall of the wonderful things that we were doing at and those two things thatjust 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, butwe felt it was the right thing to do to hit pause on that andto get through the rest of the turn and number one priority at that pointbecame taking care of our students making sure they got home safely. Everything shiftedto internal and focus on the students and certainly taking care of our staff backat that time. So other than outdoor, which of course was contracted, everythingelse 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 thatthat we loved about the campaign was we asked alumni to participayment, and sowhat we did in Indianapolis area we found those outstanding alumni and also students fromlocal schools in Indianapolis and we featured them on the outdoor boards as representing thatquality, that outseeing not just academic but overall student experience, that the Pauland outcomes that that leads to, which is that gold standard, the goldwooden touches on. And so we had very prominent alumni, everyone from BradStevens 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 theconcept there they said we're in, and you know there was no cost tothat. 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 innine days we launched that outdoor campaign. was almost thirty participants, different individualsin it who are willing to be highlighted, and you told me in advance wewould have been able to do that. If I had time to think aboutit. Yeah, what if? So, how are you? Howare you? Obviously you have some great stories. I mean thirty alumni.Are you? How are you kind of...

...transitioning that into like your alumni magazineand other ways? Are you? Are you kind of taking that content andthen repurposing it in other ways? Yes, absolutely so, online and with ourstudents. 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 returningto classes or hybrid and even our remote students, we ask them what youknow? What is it the gold within means to you, because the bestbrand promises out there are those, in my opinion, that people begin todefine for themselves. And when you let go of that control a little bitand let others define and make it personal to themselves, you find out thingsthat and possibilities and created the Ja hadn't even thought of. So a lotof our students just said here's what that means to me, and then weask our professors what does what does that mean to you? And internally onus the interview that on campus we have banners featuring our faculty all over campusso that students can meet the first year cinem our faculty on those banners andand just calling out their quality of gold within the classroom experience and video andsocial we carry that through the Hashtag just got going to gold with them Hashtagwhenever we talk about someone who's done something wonderful on their career pathway or interms 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. Andbringing all of that together with the more we've done, the more wesaid, wow, we can do this and we can do this, andthat's that's what I love about a brand of concept and a brand promise thatis malleable and adaptable and it just kind of takes along life of its ownand that's when you know, I think you've got some magic. That's prettycool, that's great and so I want to go back to something you saidearlier, 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 smallstaff. So you know, tell me about the staff makeup and how youwere able to pull off what you've done, because you know a lot of schoolsthat are listening to this, they might have just a very small marketingdepartment, maybe one, two or three, maybe five people. I know thereare other schools. State schools often have thirty, forty, fifty.I know that Eden Ethan Braden was on a couple weeks ago on the podcastand 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 peoplein marketing and communications. But tell us about the makeup of your ofyour 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, wehave a small team. I would I call him small, but mightysuper 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 werereally just for people who primarily did designs. So we really just introduced this aftertwo 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 wasdone by just tremendous talent that was located throughout the university that came together ina central arm so that we could probably those resources. And of course wehad outstanding partners in our enrollment and development and advancement areas, and so thathelps. And we have all those alumni who helped make up for some ofthat 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 morethan 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 somethingpeople in the central, you know area. So having fourteen to do that whoyou know, we had help with research in terms of the past coupleof years. When I first came in there was a firmed that during thetransition to my role, was doing some marketing research and some personality research onwhat to Paul is like, and then...

...very briefly we transition to an externalagency 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 ourbudget is small, then we sort of took it and has some enrolled itout ourselves. So but yeah, it was primarily the internal team and wehave, you know, a design team, we have a small wet team thatmoved over from the ITER ISS area of campus and we have a projectmanager and I think we all work about eighty hours a week. We havewriters the magazine. Also we had a new editor and she was able toincorporate the gold within and especially as the new president came in, very importantthere that your ultimate brand champion at any university as university president. And soDr 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 tocarry that forward and to tie that meaning directly to our core values. Sowhat 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 forgold, and seeing that and having that pointed out to us. We havebeen using gold and had terrip it, test responses and advertising, terrific resultsand very prompt and we just couldn't take it to that next and the minutewe saw that were it was one of those dumb you know what's right therein our night. I thought that was extremely clever. Just to be ableto pull out that a you with a box around it. I just thoughtwas brilliant. It was a lot of fun. So and actually that's somethingthat just opened up all sorts of opportunity playing off gold and bold and justthe idea of that gold standard of the academics which we believe the liberal artsexperience for lives. It just all interest. Everything sort of connected at that point. And then, so again we had a new president who coming induring a pandemic, which is a whole podcast right there, right becoming anew president a pandemic and historically at that, the first black present, first beno, president for the paw making history, and she has it.She has directly connected gold with into who we are and what we stand forand 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. Nowthat's that's excellent. So regle to reinforce that and even include it when movingforward with a new strategic planning effort and very much those core values and thatidea 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 couldhelp us understand how many different departments or stakeholders did you have to go toor 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 itout, teams bringing forth. We had the internal team, my team conceptat 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 ofsending off the students into their final exams with a big event and we calledit to Choo Choo at the call. We love to play with the Dof 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 wentup, you know, up and down for part walk in the main centralarea of campus and gave students lifts and we handed out swag and and goldwithin 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, thewhole thing, and just made it a big fun event. And andin the middle of winter and it was breezing, but it was it waswonderful instand. Of course, staff and...

...faculty very much part of that andthat's what's been key, I think, as we had so many staff andfaculty embrace it and and really seem to be saying this is what we've beenwaiting for, something that that showcases the kind of quality education that the Paulprovides. That really, we like, captures it. There are many universitiesout there that are certainly small, all private universities, small classes right thatare showcase or definitely who we are, those relationships with faculty members. Buthow do you define all that? And At de Paul we were able todefine 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 noteand everybody felt like they could own it. Our HR department, human resources,has a gold learning academy. They have the gold you know, they'rewrapping honors for the year within that gold them just carrying that through. Soso I would say so many people across campus embraced it, not the leastof 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 forEthics, we so many of our centers and institutes. Everyone just said wecan make this and adapted in a way that fits our individual area that alsounites with the campus. And so I would say it's kind of a longwinded answer, but I would say we, as part of the development of thebrand, we developed a messaging hierarchy that said, you know, it'snot just the brand promise, it's what are those pillars? And so wehad forty five main pillars, which is the gold standard education. You knowall 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 afor a small university, just a unheard of level of I I've never reallydoes. One of the reasons I came to the Paul was that. Sothat was a pillar, the launch pad for leaders. We were known forleadership programs for students, and then the goal commitment, which which basically sayswe stand behind our you know, ninety eight percent of our students are successfulwhen within six months of graduation, and we stand behind the outcome of everydegree. And then the powerful support network. So we had those brand pillars andthen with in each of those pillars, every department on campus can then havethe proof points that prove out each of those pillars and what they standfor, 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, andI you know, I run across this so many times because you've really gota differentiate yourself from everyone else. I mean you can't use the typical we'vegot small class sizes were, you know, mentors for your teachers. Everybody cansay that. That's in a certain range of small private to small tomedium private colleges. But I really like the fact that you've taken this thisbranding campaign, the messaging that goes with it and actually to find it outso 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. Youknow, how are you going to continue to kind of put the fuel backin the tank and get it moving? We might just happen, we mightjust get out of we really do so. So we the previous class because werolled out midway through the year. Of course, that class that camein the fall of two thousand and twenty had not seen gold within yet becausewe it was we, they were here. So it actually this next class oftwo thousand and twenty one will be the first incoming class that will beable to carry that being forward through for four years right, and so that'swhat you want, is that longevity behind a campaign. So we're looking forwardto that and we're looking forward to so much of the brand promise of goldwithin is those interactions on campus. So I do. I'm just looking reallyforward to the interactions that naturally will pave...

...the way towards more ideas around theconcept, but but certainly with video, once we can get back on inclass and on the campus, evolving more. As with the incoming class and whatthey think and their first impressions of gold within, we have those inmine. We have more faculty that we want to showcase and other alumni linedup who are in students, especially recent graduates, who are eager to participatein the campaign and and have asked to be part of that. And thestorytelling, let's not the storytelling is a huge part of that. Telling.That a Paul Story. On our home page and elsewhere. We try toweave in that the experience and the stories of how people are using their toPaul experience to live out their lives and wrap that within the content of goldwithin. So we have just tremendous like colum the social media guy, becausehe's just got a bring such a great sense of humor and and just realstrategy there that where he brings out a sort of natural bubbling up of ideasjust from the Pete, from from our constituents and our stakeholders that naturally arisejust because of the way he approaches social media. And so none, nothingis scripted, and that's what we really like about this brand. But butwe do we're very excited because we did in two thousand and nineteen, rightas the pandemic hint we got notified that we want national gold at the casecircle excellence for compressially just institutional branding. Hey, we had to bring ithome to the Midwest because Syracuse. We we be out Syracuse with very goodlaugh that they actually have a trrific campaign too. So we were very excitedand so that that that they gave us some affirmation that we needed that wewere 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 yoursocial 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 asI've gotten to know you before and during our talk today, I definitely thinkyou have a knack for portraying the story. As we kind of bring this toa close, we try to give at least one takeaway to our listenersthat they may be able to apply right away. So, as you thinkabout this brand refresh, what one or two things do you think that you'velearned from that experience that you could give to them? You know, Ireally think I touched on it already and maybe it could be a little moreclear, but I think, and certainly I've experienced this at previous institutions andeven in the corporate sector. Private sector is that used to be that brandsare the idea of branding was something that entities controlled, organizations controlled, andthis is an era of social media at that, you know, shows noend in sight, and I've really found that when you let go a littlebit of that control and let things sort of bubble up like water in asprain, you know, you let that magic happen, I really think that'swhen. Yet there they'll always be negative things that happen. Positive things thathappened there with there will be. But if you let people define things intheir own way and then let that guide you in your creative efforts. That'sone thing I've learned that has worked better, I think it to pall, thananywhere 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 littlebit and let others take some ownership of the brand promise, and that's howyou're small but mighty team becomes mightier exactly. It's a great group. I'm reallyexcited, I should say. You know that with the new president,who is just well, talk about Petit, petite and mighty. She probably oreleven. I mean so much energy. She is out and about on thatcampus, even in this pandemic, and I think she's already exemplify thatgoal within spirit. So I think skies a linen. DD. I wantto express much gratitude on behalf of Bart...

...and I. I've enjoyed this conversationand I'm sure I can say the same for Bart and. I believe thatwe've achieved our goal of putting out insights and ideas that people other marketers canglean from. So thank you for your time. Well, thank you,and I know on behalf of some other high edit marketers out there, thisis wonderful thing you're doing. We're happy to just thank you into everyone outthere. 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 listeningto 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 applePODCASTS, 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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