Revamped marketing strategy hopes to bring in students

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SVSU’s days as the “best-kept secret” in the Great Lakes Bay region are over.

The second phase of a $600,000 marketing campaign that was approved by the Board of Control in February has been launched.

The SVSU “We” campaign consists of internal and external components that include billboards along the I-75 corridor, digital advertisements, radio and Pandora advertisements, revised Admissions print publications and direct mail, TV commercials, updates to the University’s logo, stationary and graphics standards and the #WeCardinal hashtag.

The campaign seeks to increase the University’s reputation standing relative to that of competitors, improve public awareness of SVSU’s defining attributes, develop and implement a strategic integrated marketing campaign and support Admissions efforts to increase interest from prospective students, improve Admissions communication strategies and expand the pool of students who are contacted.

“What it really boils down to is being able to tell our stories more effectively in different and better ways and across every channel,” said Linda Sims, Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs. “The advertising campaign is exciting, but it’s not going to reach all our intended audiences. It’s going to be as important for anyone who is a student, employee or alum to help tell the story of SVSU.”

The campaign focuses on an external audience comprised of traditional prospective students, business and community leaders and alumni.

“We need to make sure people know who we are,” Sims said. “We’ve always done very well recruiting students from the Great Lakes Bay Region, the Thumb, the I-75 corridor, but this campaign is an effort to get the word about who SVSU is out to more outside the region.”

The internal components of the campaign are meant to educate students, faculty and staff about the broader persona of SVSU, which marketing research group Dartlet identified as dedicated, approachable and inclusive.

“If we don’t know who we are,” Sims said, “How can we possibly send our message out there?” Sims said. “Anyone who’s associated with SVSU has … their own circles of friends and families, so … they have the opportunity to be a brand ambassador for the University. The more effectively we can tell our story, the more well-known we’re going to be.”

The strategy is particularly important now as high school enrollment has been steadily declining for the past five years.

“Many years ago … we were ‘right-sizing’ … [trying] to determine what the right size for SVSU should be,” Sims said. “Now, with declining high school enrollments, it’s important for SVSU to be more widely known because every institution of higher learning is competing for the same students.”

Before this time, however, the university didn’t have a formal marketing campaign.

“We’ve always had an Admissions strategy, but the University really did not have a full-fledged strategy to tell who it is to an outside audience,” Sims said. “When Michigan high school enrollments started dropping, we didn’t want to be to the best-kept secret anymore. When you have 15 public universities, 28 community colleges and all the private institutions competing for the same students, we’ve got to get ourselves better known … in all areas of the state, not just along the I-75 corridor, which wasn’t as necessary in the past.”

The campaign began last winter when the University awarded contracts to Dartlet and the Image Group, a Michigan-based branding and marketing firm. Research was conducted in the summer and fall of last year, and the results were revealed in December.

The Image Group conducted internal and external focus groups this past spring, and the first phase of the campaign was launched in May.