Success Story:

Winona State University

When Data and Bold Creative Converge to Create a Competitive Advantage

The Challenge

Winona State University (WSU), the oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, was experiencing a decline in enrollment. They struggled with recruitment efforts at both their Winona and Rochester, Minnesota campuses. WSU, who enrolls about 7,600 students, desired a campaign concept that resonated with the different student types at each location. They were also relying on non-trackable, traditional media that paralyzed their ability to measure campaign effectiveness. Their needs, which also included moving into the digital realm, were fast outpacing their small team’s capacity to handle them. It was vital they find a partner to breathe new life into their marketing materials by creating a powerful concept and strategies that would enable measurement of efforts, and, most importantly, grow student enrollment.

Our Solution

By diving into audience insights, we helped WSU understand their students, tell their story and move into the digital space.

Brand Awareness and Perception Study

To learn about current and prospective students and alumni at both WSU and WSU-Rochester we did market research and completed a brand awareness and perception study. We asked persona-driven questions, learning which themes and messages would resonate. The data helped us develop campaign concepts that supported brand development.

Enrollment Campaign Concepting

Concepting—integral to our comprehensive process—layed the foundation of our work. We developed a campaign that told the WSU story in a way that resonated with all prospective students through a single overarching campaign concept, but with a tailored approach that conveyed the uniqueness of each location. We created three concepts, each with a cohesive story arc that tied together all online and offline marketing and advertising campaign efforts. Although the first two themes embodied WSU’s students and dynamic campus, the third concept, “Choose to Wonder”, was a perfect fit for WSU’s audiences and truly embodied the WSU experience.”

A New Enrollment Campaign Concept

“Choose to Wonder” came to life in collaboration with WSU’s admissions and marketing teams. Through numerous conversations with students and faculty, we realized a common theme: self-discovery. We created “Choose to Wonder” to convey the experience of exploration. To choose is a concrete, definitive act. To wonder is an abstract, instinctual gesture. Therefore, when you “Choose to Wonder,” you are acting definitively and thinking creatively. It’s the perfect metaphor for the WSU experience. The “Choose to Wonder” concept was a hit with faculty and staff, and MediaCross used the concept brought the concept to life through new marketing strategies that we adapted based on WSU’s unique needs.

Strategic Planning and Execution

We developed a plan for achieving WSU’s goals and expanded their visual identity to direct mail campaigns, email templates, an acceptance packet, digital advertising, viewbook, program brochures and more. We had to be flexible and re-strategize WSU’s print pieces completely. Each print piece created for WSU had to deliver critical messaging and highlight key reasons why students should choose to be a #Warrior. By breaking things down into “sprints” with specific projects and tasks, we were able to get more accomplished faster and with greater success. Our plan became the roadmap for achieving goals and guiding decisions.

Scaling Back and Saving Costs

WSU’s big, printed housing information packet conveyed information, but at a high production price and with little-to-no-way to know ROI. It also had a dated look which needed to be refreshed. Rather than sending a big, costly packet, we sent a single postcard that directed students and their parents to visit an online microsite that conveyed the same information.

Additionally, when developing the production specifications for each piece, MediaCross carefully considered the folds, paper weights, and more in conjunction with WSU’s in-house printing capabilities to ensure the final pieces were not costly to produce or mail.

Multi-tactic Digital Marketing Campaign

We moved WSU’s recruitment efforts into the digital space, launching a multi-tactic digital campaign to push students through the funnel. Our customized, comprehensive, 12-month media plan used pay-per-click advertising by strategically targeting keywords and audience types to tap into the many online searches prospects do when researching colleges; IP targeting to quickly get WSU’s message in front of the right audience at the right time; display advertising; email marketing (including email template creation); and social advertising on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook to increase awareness, applications and ultimately yield.

We created two printed viewbooks—one geared towards traditional freshman, the other tailored to the unique needs of students at WSU’s Rochester campus.

In lieu of a costly printed booklet, we moved student housing information to a digital microsite. A postcard was mailed to students, informing them of the new site.

A comprehensive digital campaign, including these display ads, was an integral part of our marketing strategy for WSU.

This unique print piece, with a tear-off coupon for the campus store, was created as part of Winona’s recruitment toolkit.

We created an infographic handout for graduate studies and transfer students, to pair with the with the Rochester campus viewbook.

The Results

From concepting to publication redesign to digital marketing to market research, MediaCross was able to help WSU and WSU-Rochester increase brand awareness via a cohesive story that helped grow visits and applications—graduate applications alone increased by 73% and visits are also up 30% year-over-year.

An Understood Audience

The brand study gave WSU a new world of audience understanding, furnishing them with new data that provided the basis for our solutions and has set us up for the next concepting cycle.

Higher Online Engagement

Our digital marketing efforts increased click-through-rates (CTRs) on mobile and desktop devices. We saw one of the highest desktop CTRs of any of our higher education clients.

Lower Costs

WSU saved money by increasing and improving its digital marketing and advertising efforts and scaling back costly productions of printed pieces.

Effective Lead Generation

Our online and offline efforts brought more students into the funnel. With PPC advertising, we drastically increased the odds that students searching online for colleges would land on WSU’s website.

Measurable Results

The days of relying on non-trackable, traditional media are well behind WSU. Our multi-tactic digital campaign enables WSU to track ROI automatically, quickly measuring campaign effectiveness and quantifying results.

Increased Brand Awareness

Increased brand awareness had a snowball effect, growing WSU’s audience exponentially; the direct and organic traffic to WSU’s website has increased nearly 19% since our partnership began.

Erin Blumentritt
Director of Marketing
Winona State University
MediaCross has been a truly engaged, collaborative partner that shows they genuinely care about the outcome of their work. They approach our partnership from a broad, multi-faceted perspective—by not only ensuring the projects they undertake for us are expertly executed, but also by offering their insights and guidance on our internal projects so we get an even greater impact from our collective efforts.

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