The Higher Ed Marketer
The Higher Ed Marketer

Episode 1 · 1 year ago

Driving Affinity Through Innovative Marketing at Universities


From the private sector to Purdue, Ethan Braden has already created a legacy that university marketers across the U.S. admire.

On today’s episode, Bart Caylor, President & Founder at Caylor Solutions Inc, and Troy Singer, Senior Account Executive at Think Patented talk with Ethan Braden, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Purdue University about:

- Advice on transitioning from the private sector to a public university

- University marketing campaigns during COVID-19

- How having an incredible team led to winning the AMA Awards in 2020

- Why diversifying messaging to audiences is critical for adoption

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 websites instead!

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

The notion of marketing is the catalyst of exemplary customer experiences, the idea that we are the drivers of those experiences, that we are the drivers of the brand and not the driven. 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, don'tor 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 episode one of the Higher Ed Marketer podcast. I am one of your host, Troy Singer, and I'm here with my cohost, Bart Taylor. How's it going to day, Bart Troy? It's going great. I'm very excited to get going and and this being our launch of our higher Ed Marketer podcast, it's exciting to be here today and I'm really looking forward to it, as am I. Now to get into it. It seems that Higher Ed Marketing, along with everything else in life, has been affected greatly by covid nineteen. Can you tell us a little bit about today's show and the guests that we have. Yeah, when we first started thinking about launching this podcast, I think that we have to first look at the reality of where things are. I mean it'd be great to be able to just jump in and start talking about highered marketing, which we are, but also being able to look at it in the context of the reality of the world around us. And certainly in the last year it has been greatly impacted by covid nineteen and I don't think that's going to change anytime soon. And so today's guest is Ethan Braden. He's one of the leaders at pretty universities, the vice president of marketing and communications, and we're going to be talking with him about not only the fact that he and his team won the American Marketing Association marketers of the year, they swept that this year, but they also did their higher Ed Marketing in the midst of a pandemic, and part of that was rolling out a new brand and rolling out a protect produce platform that really allowed them to communicate with all their constituencies in a way that really...

...helped them navigate the pandemic and do it in a successful way and actually grow their class in the midst of that. Well, we both have been fans of Ethan for quite a while and we're so excited to have him on. So, without further ado, let's get started. We are very excited to have Ethan Braden, Senior Vice President of marketing and communications at Produce University, with us today on the Higher Ed Marketer. Welcome Ethan. Thank you, guys, Ethan, I had followed you for a while before. I realize that you recently came to produe and the Higher Ed Marketing Space from the private sector. Could you share the story of how that transition took place and any learnings that you would offer others that are thinking of making a similar transition? Certainly know I was very fortunate to follow to produce my mentor who also brought me to lily in two thousand and six, Stan Hassler. So in the summer of eighteen we began to discuss the fact that he was going to stay at produce audible thing on his third attempt to retire and become essentially the chief marketing officer and run the hundred and fifty anniversary there. Produce needed a great number two, so we discussed the idea of following up him up there, learning from him, being his his number two is lieutenant and, if lucky enough, earning the opportunity to succeed him when he retired, and fortunately, in April of this past year, two thousand and twenty, I was fortunate enough to to earn that opportunity. But in terms of coming to hire it from the private sector, I've asked that question a lot and I think there's actually far more similarities than there are differences. Awesome, honestly. It's a complex, oftentimes commoditized, competitive, difficult market. We're great. Marketing is paramount and needed and in its base, like a university with multiple colleges, departments, players, etc. Influence without authority is key, and we saw that in the private sector as well. But at the other day I think it's equally as complex, equally as fun, equally as challenging, again with an incredible beneficiary to our worked up being students and families that will hopefully come up to produne university and have a great experience, as they would have previously with our medicines in my in my previous career. Great, great, that's...

...that's that's great. Thank you, E for then, as I'm kind of also, just kind of picking back on that, I noticed that this year you won the American Marketing Association High Red Marketer of the year with your team. Maybe can tell us a little bit about that. Yeah, we were fortunate to sweep and it, I'll credit goes to the team to be named the individual and then a couple days later find out that the team was also named marketing team of the year. was just a treat. Had A few people say to me, and I think this is an important point, you know, that was fast. You've been there two years, done a lot of work, but but it, you know, it's the other day. You know when if you get after it for two years, whether it's in fitness or in finance or professionally, if you get after it every single morning and work to get a little bit better, a lot can be done in two years and thankfully, and thankful of a very impressive and devout team that has a DNA that just wants to make great impact of university, we were able to achieve that. But the other day, you know, the other part of this is having a very supportive board, President Daniels and other leaders who want a brand that does justice to Protu University, to its hundred and fifty one years of history, to its six hundred and thirtyzero alumni. They want a brand that really shines when we put it out there as marketing communications, the way that those alums feel when they see it, and you we need to do justice to it. Thankfully, two thousand and twenty was a good opportunity to do so. Well, that's great. And speaking of two thousand and twenty, I know that you're having such a great team that's really trying to make an impact. I'm sure that was very helpful as you rolled out the protect produe in the middle of a pandemic, and as a parent of a produced student, I was I was very impressed to see that kind of roll out when when we dropped my freshman off on campus in August, I was, you know, relieved to see what was going on and I was impressed over the course of the semester. So maybe tell us a little bit about that campaign, how it came to be and how the marketing played into that. Yeah, I think a few things. You know, number one team extends beyond those that were the pretty badge and for us we've got some great partners consultants fenders, as well as an agency in partnership here withthology, and they played a huge role, especially in an initially formulating the attitudes police behaviors the audience, understanding the objectives and the phases that we really wanted... execute with protect produe really from March or April on now, began with President Daniels, to be very frank, the quest, the call to learn from the hundred fifty anniversary, but with a much more important adversary or foe in the form of covid nineteen, and to apply all of those learnings about synchronized, compelling and consistent marketing communications to create the attitudes police behaviors that we were going to need on campus to thrive, to survive and to get through then, you know, get through that semester. So it was really a pickup of what we've learned over the last year about getting on the same song sheet, about deeply understanding those attitudes police behaviors that we were going to need to either change or reinforce or create, you know, in a community of Fiftyzero to be successful, and then to bring those to life. I have an associate on my team who likes to use the Disney example and she says, you know, at Disney you can't go thirty feet without finding a trash can if you have a real commitment to cleanliness. For us it was don't go thirty feet without seeing a reminder of protect purdue, believing that it, you know, seven, wherever you go, you to protect ourselves, protect others and protect that produce community if we were going to do this successfully residentially and open the produced. President, Mitch Daniels, who you previously mentioned, and also what's the governor of Indiana one time, I believe, wrote an op Ed piece in the Washington Post early in the pandemic. So if you could tell us how that fit into the campaign? Was it the spark or was it the camp part of the campaign structure at all? Well, I'd say it was the tip of the spears, specially in front of the curtain. The reality is, you know, Mitch is guided by science, he's guided by his his executives, his leaders, his deans, his scientists on campus, and so a lot of work had been put into place long before he made the declaration that we would reopen. He attasked our veterinarian Dean Willie read and Our Business School Dean David Hummel's to lead us a campus task force where they really looked under every rock to understand the problems, the challenges, the headwinds, as well as the solutions to potentially being able to reopen. You Watch the science, especially as it protect, you know, as it...

...pertains to the diversity of audiences and constituents we have with that's an eighteen year old freshman or, you know, seven year eight year old faulty member and everything in between. And so when you saw that declaration, it was guided, you know, by his experts, by his cabinet and by the science. But he was the tip of the spear really at Pretty University and and in North America to say I think we can come back and live our mission open residentially, but we'll have to do it in a way fundamentally different than anything we know, whereby we would protect the most vulnerable and then find a different way to operate with everyone else that would be present. And so that oped was really a function, I think, of leading the way he does. He's an incredible situational leader. Leaders always have arrows in their back and we see that. But at the end of the day. That decision was very guided and by no means just on his own. That's great and being a parent of a freshman, I love seeing that message. Even before we set up foot on campus, I was excited about that. But if I remember correctly, there were some in the community that weren't as excited about it and maybe put some arrows in the back that, as you kind of referenced and and pushed back. So they not only were you rolling out the messaging for different audiences, but getting pushed back from some of those audiences as well. It's common when a stakes put in the ground. So tell us how you handled that as a marketer and any tips that you might have for others, because, I mean, true leadership is going to end up that way and I think that, you know, a lot of schools could learn from your example. Yeah, I think there's a lot of things there. You know, the first piece, again, is being guided by science and being guided by the experts of a university community. Right that safe campus task force really identified what would the head winds and the tailwes to potentially do this. Moreover, he assembled the protect Portu implementation team with folks leading functions of their expertise to be able to do this successfully. The board of trustees approve the measures the protect porty planned three times over the summer. And additionally, as you think about the faculty, staff, employees, etc. There are eighty town halls before we open school that were directed at them to bring people along to hear the concerns, to create confidence, competence and perceptions, as well as realities of understanding, and there were fifty of those as well for families...

...and students. So you know, coalition building continue to evolve as the science evolved over communicating, doing it with empathy, providing avenues to hear the other points of view and solicit information, with our protectorty website, for instance. All of those were key and keeping the ball moving but also not leaving anyone behind. And you know the other thing I highlight with that protect porty implementation team, now we're every morning with Mitche thirty. There's two deans of so set with that. There's our probost, there's our vice provosts of teaching and learning. There's great representation from all the corners of campus. They're helping guide those decisions throughout the course of the summer, through the fall and that will only continue this spring. That's a great deal of commitment for everyone on that team. I mean a daily meeting like that. That that is a lot of commitment. I've applaud that. So tell me a little bit about I mean, obviously, in the middle of protect produce, that's not all that you guys were doing. I mean you still have the business of a regular high red marketer and marketing team to attend to. I mean you're certainly going to be working on enrollment persistence, retention, visits to campus, as well as other things that have to do with development, with donor relations or community engagement and relations. So tell us how all that fit together, because, I mean it didn't just stop with protect produe. You had to kind of implement that into everything else it tell us about that. The sequence, I think, is interesting because it into January we rolled out our new brand platform right a really a response to the hundred and fifty years of giant leaks anniversary campaign. That took us through eighteen and nineteen. But the idea was after that celebration of a hundred fifty years, we're all of the departments, were all the communicators where all the college is going to go back to their disparate corners or we're going to continue together, you know, on the same song sheet in key. And so we rolled out our new brand platform that really was founded in our essence of Pretty University, is about the persistent pursuit of innovation, where boiler makers bring their best and learn together to build a better world. And so you know, as we've faced covid five weeks later after that brand platform launch, we saw the students go home. But we were right in the midst of essentially yield. Right, it's march and you're starting to talk about August. The first key was to look at that and say,...

...instead of throwing the playbook out the door, how do we continue to tell the world who we are and what we stand for? And we orchestrated a play called air cover. Was Really all along our sixteen CURCI's me two weeks each, but eight pillars of messaging. The continue to communicate, especially those amind of students and families that when others run out, produce runs in. What you can count on from a produce education, the innovation, the persistence, the collaboration, the affordability. We made sure we drove consistent messaging during those periods. Well, about a month later, as that had begun, protect produe was launched, and again it's right squarely with our brand persistent innovation, together in this instance to combat that foe that is covid nineteen. And we ran that play throughout the course of the summer in unison with our colleges, with our departments, as Jamie Gilpin at sprout social says, you know, for brands during that period of time, social media was about the only door that was open, or at least digital was pertaining to visits, etc. And so we really ran that place throughout the course of the summer. Or we're fortunate, I think, with all that collective effort to have the largest freshman class we've ever had. That's great. Congratulations. Thank you, Ethan. I must say that was so inspired. When others run out, boiler makers run in, and I will take that away from our session to day, for sure. I would like to ask you. We ask of our guests one thing that they could provide our audience, which is an idea that they could take away from listening that they could apply either now or very near in the future. Is there an idea that comes to mind that you could share that others could benefit from. Now I think it's the the point of view that I've really tried to bring to pretty university from my previous career, in that is, the notion of marketing is the catalyst of exemplary customer experiences, the idea that we are the drivers of those experiences, that we are the drivers of the brand and not the driven. We have three goals on my team. The first is to cultivate, excite and unite a world class marketing community at Perdu University. So I have a team of sixty five. There's another three to four hundred people on campus that are working in some sort of communications capacity. So how do we cultivate that group? How... excite that group, but how do we get them on the same page so that what they put out looks and feels compelling and consistent? That is a that's a proactive method. The second piece of that was to get away from being the driven, the shorter cook of random acts of marketing on university to be the driver of great positioning, of great understanding, of great promotion and great protection or preservation of our brand. So again, the idea of the driver and then the last idea that it's not for us, it's for our external audiences. And so at the end of the day, when we put our marketing out there, it's got to have that understanding, it's got to have that target, not aim to really be about driving affinity, so that people are going to take our information, they're going to feel something with it, they're going to recall and they're going to take some action based on it. With that sort of idea, I think that props marketing. It brings it to the table as a material contribution to the realization of the organization's ultimate goals. Right, we need a materially contribute to Miss Daniels realization of produce future, not be the shorter or cook in the back, and so I encourage all of your listeners, all of our markets on higher education, to really step up and think about their contributions and how they can be the driver of really great brand proliferation versus the recipient of orders of others. That's great. Thank you so much, Ethan, for for what you're shared today. Thank you for participating and kind of letting us in a little bit on the inner workings of the marketing team of the year and the marketer of the year from Ama and really excited about that. What you've shared today. I don't know if there's any last parting thoughts or any additional thoughts that you'd like to say. No, I just I wish everyone a really happy and healthy and hopefully productive two thousand and twenty one. We realize that Produ in particular, that this semester will be different and likely more challenging than the one that we just fought, and so we're gearing up for it. We continue to be somber and sober about our perspective on it. will go out of every single day. As Mitch said, we started early, we threw the kitchen sink at it, but at the only day it's about creating culture. It's about the culture that we needed from our students to really protect produe and I'm sure that's the case anywhere in higher education. Start early, throw everything you have at it and get that culture right. But this is going to be... interesting semester. I wish everyone the very, very best of luck as they can bat it will ethan. Thank you. Thank you for joining us and sharing your expertise with everyone today. You definitely provided plenty of use will takeaways and to our listeners. This episode of the hired Marketer podcast is sponsored by Cave of solutions and education, marketing and branding agency and also by think patented. I'm marketing, execution, printing and mailing provider of higher its solutions. On behalf of my cohost Bart Taylor, I'm troy singer. Thank you for tuning it. 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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