A Micro-what?

Since the new brand will launch with the introduction of the Admissions campaign in the Fall, EM2 recommended to us the development of an interim microsite to serve as a branded gateway of top-level information about Hope. The microsite can be planned and developed faster to coincide with the Fall Admissions cycle and provide brand consistency while we begin planning the redevelopment of our full website. The information will be more promotional, highlight key messages and provide direct links to our existing site for more detailed information. The microsite will be developed as a self-contained module with its own content management system.
As with any web project, successful microsite development depends on a strong needs assessment. As part of EM2’s work in the web discovery phase, they are helping us to determine the scope of the project and the level of functionality needed.
We have just signed off on the strategy and functional recommendations which outline strategic content and functionality, page types and wireframes, and navigation and site architecture.

Think of wireframes as a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website. The wireframe depicts the page layout or arrangement of the website’s content, including interface elements and navigational systems, and how they work together. It is important to have a handle of this basic blueprint before the design phase begins.
At this point we have defined the scope of the project to include:

  • Hope.edu homepage
  • Admissions (entire site)
  • About Hope
  • Academics
  • The Arts
  • Athletics
  • Campus Offices
  • HopeToday
  • Alumni
  • Parents
  • Advancement

All of these areas with the exception of Admissions will only include a redesign of the section fronts, not the entire site.
EM2 will be presenting three page types in two sets of which we’ll be able to choose a direction and provide feedback. In July we will be working with EM2’s web partner, MediaCurrent Interactive Solutions, to begin back-end programming of the site. Page build begins in August and we are planning to launch the site on or around August 30, 2011.
There’s a lot of work ahead, so we better get to work!

— Submitted by Jason Cash, Campaign Associate for College Advancement

Using the New Brand: Admissions

Our main priority at this point, having selected a creative concept/direction, is to revise the Admissions campaign for print and electronic communication. The last significant revision of Hope literature for prospective students and parents was in summer 2006. Those pieces received minor revisions each year since then but are due for a more extensive treatment.

EM2 took the Fully Alive concept and (with our suggestions) prepared a more final version to be applied to the Admissions print and email campaigns. Here’s a look at what they came up with for us:

The most striking difference in terms of campaign strategy is that we’re communicating with prospective students 6-12 months earlier than we have in years past. They’ll begin receiving information from us at the beginning of their sophomore year.

The idea here is that by the time students are in the summer after their junior year, they’ve started to formulate the list of schools to which they’ll apply. By reaching out to them earlier, there’s a much higher chance that Hope will be on that list. The earlier a student applies to Hope, the more opportunity the Admissions staff has to work with them during their senior year and influence them to enroll.

Next steps for developing the Admissions campaign include: copy writing and revisions for print materials, HTML email creation, a video series for sophomores, and more. We plan to ship new Admissions materials to prospective students around the beginning of September.

— Submitted by Andrew Meyers, Assistant Director of Admissions

It’s Time To Get Creative

Taking a look at initial creative concepts may be the most exciting checkpoint in the rebranding process to date. They are the visual representation of all that Hope is and all for which Hope stands.
This week we saw the first creative representations of our brand promise and brand attributes. EM2 presented two concepts: Fully Alive and Rare Combinations. Prior to showing their work, Chris Martin explained the creative process and even gave us an inside look at how the design process works at EM2’s headquarters in Atlanta:Lynn Donham prepared us for reviewing the creative concepts with the following admonition:

Still the critic.
Entertain the notion.
Consider the possibilities.

These statements proved to be extremely useful encouragement for keeping an open mind as we viewed these concepts for the first time. Here’s a look at Fully Alive and Rare Combinations:

Fully Alive

Rare Combinations

Following the presentation, the Integrated Marketing Cabinet considered each concept and recommended that EM2 proceed with Fully Alive. We felt the use of vibrant color, graphic text, overall look and feel were most consistent with the redefined Hope brand. The IMC liked the idea of Rare Combinations, and has asked EM2 to integrate some of those elements in the revision of Fully Alive.

— Submitted by Andrew Meyers, Assistant Director of Admissions

Hope’s New Brand Promise and Attributes

We’ve reached a major milestone in the re-branding process: finalization of the Hope College brand promise and a refined set of brand attributes. These outcomes are the result of a long-term discovery and research phase, as well as substantial discussion and discernment.

The brand promise is a statement that embodies Hope’s main reason for being:

Hope College inspires students to be fully alive in mind, body and spirit through an exceptional liberal arts education and a community grounded in a vibrant Christian faith.

The brand attributes are the aspects of Hope that are most distinctive, important and believable:

  • Rare combination: rigorous academics and relevant, vibrant and inviting Christian faith
  • Friendly and welcoming community
  • Close student-faculty and student-staff relationships: masterful teachers and talented researchers in small classes and one-on-one collaboration
  • Christian character: engages the whole person with the larger world throughout academics, co-curricular and other programs
  • Nationally recognized leader: in undergraduate research, scholarship, preparation, and life-changing experiences
  • Holistic Approach: Liberal arts and pre-professional programs with very high academic standards and exceptional opportunities: holistic approach has been lauded for character, preparedness, service, and life-changing experiences for students.
  • Championship Athletics: tradition with scholar-athletes and community that supports College teams
  • Location: Safe and historic campus located just blocks from charming town of Holland, Michigan, with outstanding college facilities, an increasingly culturally diverse community.

This promise and supporting attributes will guide the development of print and electronic marketing materials to all of Hope’s audiences. They will also serve as a common reference point for each office on campus.

— Submitted by Andrew Meyers, Assistant Director of Admissions

A Brand-New Hope

We’ve just approved the first version of Hope’s brand creative brief. This comes as the result of one portion of an extensive Brand Development Process that was shepherded by EM2, our agency partner.

This process began several months ago and has involved the following milestones:

  • December 2010: EM2 visited campus to meet with a number of key people on campus, including senior administration, faculty, representatives from campus office, and current Hope students.
  • January 2011: Surveys (based on the meetings held in December) were sent to faculty and staff, current Hope students, and non-applied prospective students.
  • Mid-February 2011: EM2 tabulated survey responses.
  • March 2011: EM2 held a brand workshop on campus. It included the presentation of survey results, as well as extensive conversation about EM2’s suggested brand promise and attributes. This workshop included the Integrated Marketing Cabinet, members of senior administration, the Deans Council, and several key faculty.

EM2 distilled the feedback received during the brand workshop into a brand creative brief that included near-final versions of Hope’s brand promise and key brand attributes. The Integrated Marketing Cabinet made final suggestions and edits with input from senior administration.

At this point we’re looking ahead to tactical implementation, with the Admissions Print Campaign and a related microsite at the top of the list moving forward.

— Submitted by Andrew Meyers, Assistant Director of Admissions

Data Driven

As part of the brand development process, Hope has completed a set of perception research studies with the help of EM2, our integrated marketing partner.  The results of these studies were shared at a meeting in Haworth open to the college community.  If you missed the meeting or are looking for more information, below is a brief summary:

  • In February an online survey was sent to three groups: current students, prospective students and faculty/staff.  Over 2,100 responses were collected and each group has a margin of error of 3-4%.
  • Current students and faculty and staff are very satisfied.  On a five-point scale, 90% of current students and 82% of faculty and staff rate their experience with the college as a 4 or a 5.
  • Some of the aspects of the college that current students like most are small classes, friendly and welcoming environment, close faculty-student relationships, the Christian environment, academic quality, downtown Holland, the beauty of campus, preparation for success in career and the ability to get involved.  This list is very similar to what aspects appeal to prospective students.  
  • What students like least are cost and financial aid, lack of diversity, parking, housing options and weather.  Current students would also like to see more name recognition for the college.
  • 77% of current students said the Christian atmosphere influenced their decision to attend Hope.
  • 71% of prospective students are applying to at least 4 schools. The top sources in their college search are campus visits, college websites, printed materials and parents.
  • The most important challenges identified by faculty and staff include sustaining enrollment, affordability, economic challenges, creating a more diverse campus and building the endowment.
  • Faculty and staff identified faculty relationships, the quality of the academic program, and the supportive Christian environment as the biggest advantages or benefits to students.
  • Most faculty and staff felt comfortable talking about Hope and the value it offers.  21% said they would like some help.

Overall, the research affirmed much of what we already knew (from a variety of different studies completed over the past few years) and gave us an even stronger foundation to build the brand promise and brand attributes on (more to come on these).  We will use this information, including our strengths and challenges, to better articulate our value to those considering Hope.

— Submitted by Scott Travis, Director of Alumni and Parent Relations

Another acronym: EM2!

Phew! The marathon of firm selection has come to a close and we are extremely excited that Hope has selected EM2, an education marketing firm from Atlanta, to assist us in coordinating integrated marketing efforts on campus. We appreciate their style and believe they can assist us in better and more widely promoting the Hope experience.

What is it we like about them? Well, it’s more than the fact they say “ya’ll” a lot (although it is fun to listen to). They have more than 20 years of experience with roots in marketing, communication, design and branding. They have Fortune 500 experience in their past, however they now focus entirely on education, with a national client base.

Their capabilities are cross-discipline (expertise in branding, admissions, fundraising, and alumni relations), cross-media (dual focus on print and web), and they’re all around creative people who are fresh thinkers with innovative solutions. Also, they’re a lot like us at Hope. Private, personal, select, and small (in a good way!).

We are excited about their direct experience in development, brand, and faith-based education institutions, fresh research-informed creative directions, and focus on determining criteria for success and measuring results. They are going to push us to research to understand and build consensus, build tools based on strategic objectives, and track and measure for effectiveness.

Oh, and did we mention that their Sr. Marketing Consultant, Lynn Donham, teaches Okinawan Shuri-Ryu karate as a 1st degree black belt. That’s just cool.

— Submitted by Jason Cash, Campaign Associate for College Advancement

Can we get some info, please?

One of the objectives of the IMC outlined in our previous post was to improve and integrate both the content and design of Hope’s print and online communications. Therefore, a new working group has been formed called the “New Media Redesign Team” or web team for short.
This team is comprised of:
Jason Cash, Advancement
Andrew Meyers, Admissions
Lynne Powe, Public Relations
Becky Robrahn, CIT
The group was initially tasked with developing a comprehensive Request for Information (RFI) to be submitted to various marketing/web agencies specifically relating to improving Hope’s website college-wide. Of course, as many of us have experienced, this project has grown in scope. It now includes print and institutional branding.

The RFI includes information about Hope’s current marketing presence, timeline, as well as an outline of the project and areas of most need. The RFI was sent to 20 firms across the United States and we received 13 qualified response proposals for branding, web, and print work. Through a search process, five firms were invited to present on campus to an interdepartmental team of faculty and staff.

This process allowed all of us involved to better understand certain areas where Hope could benefit from an external partner. It has become apparent that institutional branding needs to be brought to the forefront of this project before our other priorities such as web and print can be tackled with the level of quality necessary.

One firm stood out to us as being a great fit for this adventure: EM2 located in Atlanta, Georgia. With that, we’re strapped in, because we’re about to embark on a wild ride!

— Submitted by Jason Cash, Campaign Associate for College Advancement

What is Integrated Marketing, anyway?

In the course of working in higher education, we all come across buzzwords that are often used but only occasionally explained: “Student Centered Learning”, “Social Media”, “Knowledge Economy”, “Globalization”, “Distinctive”, “Synergy” and of course, “Integrated Marketing”. We even have an appointed cabinet to work on that last one.

So what is Integrated Marketing, anyway? In order to move from cliché to common language, consider the following analogy: each division and department at a college is like a musician in an orchestra. Playing individually, we may occasionally reach our intended audience with positive results, but only when the orchestra is tuned and playing from a common score, will the results move an audience to tears.

Since that analogy is itself a bit cliché, here’s the textbook definition of integrated marketing as Dr. Robert Sevier puts it: “a listening-first, database-dependent approach to marketing that includes a willingness to segment and coordinate such strategic assets as product, price, and place, and to develop effective promotion strategies for key target audiences.”

For us, this means coordinating our efforts to communicate the value of a Hope College education to our students, their families and other key audiences.

Realizing a need for this type of communication, President Bultman has appointed an Integrated Marketing Cabinet to work towards the vision set forth in Chapter 2 of the Hope College Strategic Plan, approved by the Board of Trustees in 2006. The vision stated in the plan is that “all areas of Hope College succinctly communicate a consistent message that accurately reflects the vision and values of the institution in both the content and the design of the communication.”

Meeting since September of 2008, the group has begun both strategic and operational dialogue in the following areas:

  • Identifying what we currently do in the area of marketing as well as the target audiences we would like to reach
  • The role of marketing research in our decisions and identifying what research we currently have available to us
  • Overall branding and integration within the institution, including the possibility of seeking input from an outside agency
  • Better utilizing positioning outcomes, including a placement report and an economic impact study
  • Improving and integrating both the content and design of Hope’s print and online communications

This blog’s aim is to keep you up-to-date as the college moves forward with these initiatives. In the process, we will try to avoid the clichés.

— Submitted by Scott Travis, Director of Alumni and Parent Relations