Category Archives: Inspiration

Brand Guide Cheat Sheet

A success higher-ed brand must be a lot of things. It must resonate with a variety of audiences (prospective students, alumni, research partners); it must be nimble, yet everlasting (remember, unlike a campaign, a brand can hold strong for 10 or more years!); and internally across campus, it’s got to be fairly easy to execute. Unlike perhaps in corporate brands, campus communicators don’t all necessarily hail from a brand marketing background. Communicators should be able to articulate brand essense—and taking it a step further—rapidly demonstrate how the brand manifests itself in copy and design. What’s more, brand should ooze from every touchpoint in our audience’s journey.

It’s up to us as brand ambassadors to share practical tools and ideas for brand implement that apply to our every day.

Check Yourself, Check Each Other

See brand through external messaging by focusing on these three things.
Is your marketing communication?

  • Centered on people, opportunities, and/or experiences (If not, we argue, it doesn’t belong in our messaging)
  • Honest in tone
  • Free of jargon, fussy words, and complex sentences

Shannon Rinkinen
University Marketing and Communications, Michigan Tech


On-Brand Imagery in Enrollment Marketing

A photo is worth a thousand words, right? In enrollment marketing to undergraduate students—targeting students as early as their sophomore year—a captivating, on-brand image can say everything to how a prospective student can envision themselves on campus. In fact, more and more, entire spreads in print marketing do not use words, but instead, appeal to students through strong, beautiful photos.

When selecting imagery for enrollment marketing communications at Michigan Tech, here are a few of the things we mindfully do:

  • Look for ways to highlight Michigan Tech. Three students in a lab with colored gloves could be in any lab at any university in the world. Find ways to show it’s Michigan Tech. Think: branded safety glasses (on subjects or sitting on a lab bench) or posters/banners on a wall.
  • Highlight our incredible area. Select photos that show campus, the water, the environment—the things that make us special and different from other colleges. Data indicates that prospective students are really drawn to aerial photography. 
  • Be authentic to your program. Don’t force diversity. Try not to feature the same star student in all your photo shoots.
  • Show students working together. They don’t have to be camera aware. Highlight how they collaborate, function, and (sometimes) get dirty.
  • Involve faculty or staff who normally work with students in a familiar space. Another great opportunity is students and faculty/staff in casual settings—chatting informally in a computer lab or over coffee. If that’s the culture of your department, show it!
  • Mine for user images. Thanks to smartphone technology, images need not always be professional. Perhaps the image was curated from Facebook (get permission, of course). User images may even offer up that gritty, natural feel we’re after.
  • Get a second opinion. Or a third. How do your colleagues interpret an image? Is there anything off-putting about the photo or the piece as a whole? Thousands of copies will be shared with thousands of people—it’s prudent to seek many eyes.
  • Finally, promote Michigan Tech, always. Students should never (ever) wear clothing promoting another school in our marketing communications. They don’t have to be decked out in Tech gear, but they shouldn’t be sporting another school logo.

Allison Carter
Director of Admissions, Michigan Tech


Good Marketing Problems and How to Have Them

The Pavlis Honors College is redefining what it means to be an honors student at Michigan Tech. Of course, with any big change comes the challenge of communicating the significance and the benefit it brings. Convincing faculty, students, and parents that student success should not be measured by GPA alone has always been an uphill battle.

Increasing enrollment within Pavlis has always been a goal, and we found engaging students before they arrive on campus was key. Working closely with University Marketing and Communications, Pavlis developed materials and digital content to reach out to potential Huskies before most of them had even decided where they would be attending college.

 

Generating messaging that is authentic and honest is at the forefront of every communication.

This included a letter from the dean inviting students to apply for pre-admission to the Honors College, a brochure, a rack card, a landing page on our website, and social media posts. We let actual current students tell the incoming class why they should apply to the Honors College. The brochure designed by UMC shared six, brief student stories from diverse majors and backgrounds. The video showcased on our pre-admission landing page consisted of our students talking informally about what they do and how Pavlis helped them along the way.

The impact? Of the 3,721 students accepted to Michigan Tech that received our mailings, 151 applied to be Pavlis pre-admission students (as of Jan. 2017). This may not seem like a large number, but generally, we average 20-25 applicants a semester. So comparatively, this campaign was incredibly effective!

With this brand and marketing win, we now focus our attention to making sure we have staff to accommodate the influx of students who will begin their Honors seminar courses and pathway in fall 2018.

Not such a bad problem to have.

Amy Karagiannakis
Manager of Marketing and Digital Content, Pavlis Honors College, Michigan Technological University


Customer Service as a Brand Touchpoint

You know it when you get it—and especially when you don’t. Good customer service. Sometimes it can be the littlest thing that delights us. When Sherwin Williams’ staff carries our paint can to the car. When the print shop includes a peppermint candy with an order. A prompt reply to a Facebook direct message. A refund for a faulty product—no questions asked. Sometimes simply doing what we say we are going to do, when we say we are going to do it can be perceived as good customer service.Brand-aligned customer service can make a huge impact. Afterall, one unhappy person may tell 9–15 people about a negative interaction while a happy consumer is likely to tell 4–6 people. Just one positive interaction can make a person brand loyal for a lifetime.
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The STEM Lifestyle

We know STEM jobs are in demand. Within the next 25 years, those in the STEM fields must find solutions to some of the world’s most complex and frightening problems, like drought, famine, disease, energy-consumption, and cybersecurity. Today, we have more STEM job vacancies than people to fill them. It’s vital we find new and creative ways to promote a career in STEM.

At Michigan Tech, we understand the importance of demonstrating the ROI of a STEM degree. We also understand the impact of those who choose a career in STEM will have on societies, economies, and the world. Make no mistake; it’s easy to rely on data to tell our story–job-demand, starting salaries, job placements, are all very powerful stuff to promote. Today however, in higher education, the brand power of a university is equally critical.

Simply put, brand power is a result of a strong relationship one has developed with a product, business, or organization. Today it’s not enough for a university to promote what they offer (the product of a quality education).

Data, statistics, and rankings can only empower a message so much.

Now university marketers and communicators must also demonstrate the importance of the relationship one can have with their university as well.

Michigan Tech is a Lifestyle

1980s and 1990s companies targeting skateboarders provided some of the first examples of businesses that made product marketed to embody the culture of their customers. Today, we call them lifestyle brands. Lifestyle brands identify with their audience by embodying and extolling their characteristics to build a relationship. Data can be a powerful tool to demonstrate affinity with STEM enthusiasts–mathematicians love numbers, as an example. However, successful lifestyle brands help to foster a kinship between a brand and an audience. And when done well, it can last a lifetime.

I want the STEM fields to be seen as a lifestyle and I want Michigan Tech to be a lifestyle brand. I want to demonstrate what life is like for a mechanical engineer, a quantum physicist, or a biological scientist at Michigan Tech. I want to focus on the journey and not just the outcomes. I want STEM to not only be seen as necessary and important for our world, but also just plain cool to be a part of. If we can tell this story correctly, not only will it strengthen the Michigan Tech brand, it will also help to fill the current void in STEM jobs for years to come.

Ian Repp
Director of Marketing and Communications



A Michigan Tech Tale

Forestry students forage in the marshes for edible wild plants. An alumna finds a way to feed her therapy horses after Hurricane Harvey floods their stable. High school boys from inner city Detroit learn to turn lemons into batteries. A biology researcher follows the trail of bilge water microbes through ports around the world, from Singapore to Green Bay. A student puts his EMT training to work and saves his father’s life.

It’s all about the stories—the touching, telling human stories of the struggles and triumphs of students, faculty, staff and alumni—that are the heart of the Michigan Tech brand.  

Everyone is captivated by stories. People in every culture tell stories, and they always have. Tales of terror or courage passed down from generation to generation. Myths that that explain what look like miracles.  Fables that teach morality or illustrate essential truths. Stories touch our hearts, inform our minds, help us make sense of the world around us.

So what does that have to do with branding? Simply this: Stories are the most effective way to give a voice and a face to our values and beliefs. And brand is all about communicating the values and beliefs that define Michigan Tech. So we do it by telling stories—stories about Michigan Tech people, Michigan Tech programs, Michigan Tech life.

Next time someone asks you about Michigan Tech, tell them a story.

–Jennifer Donovan
Director of News and Media Relations


Think Internally: Creating Michigan Tech Brand Ambassadors

When we think of brand ambassadors, we may think of overt product plugs from our favorite Instagram-famous bloggers. On campus, many departments and groups leverage student ambassadors for their authentic voice—students talking to students.

In this last year, as University Marketing and Communications worked to roll out our new brand—developing our look, tone, and message—it got me thinking about another essential ingredient: Us.

A powerful corps of more than 1,000 faculty and staff. What do we say about Michigan Tech? How do we engage with and advocate for Michigan Tech on social media? Our stories impact prospective students and employees, research partners, and alumni.

Educate

At Zappos, where new hires are trained in the ins and outs of Twitter, more than 500 employees tweet—for free—on behalf of the company. Employee stories later become a part of Zappos’ annual culture book.

Heineken’s brand ambassadors are a healthy mix of internal and external. When employees reported feeling uninformed about the company’s UEFA Champions League sponsorship, Heineken set out to create an internal game—brand education meets and a little office fun.

Here on campus, students, faculty, and staff are invited to monthly Campus Communicators meetups. Folks who manage social media, websites, and print marketing converge. It’s a great opportunity to ask all sorts of questions—even as simple as, “How do I start a Twitter account?”

Michigan Tech also produces an annual Social Media Field Guide. It serves as both a set of policies and best practices so we can help support more than 80 Michigan Tech-affiliated social media accounts. It’s updated annually, so let us know what’s missing or unclear—email social@mtu.edu.

Share

People—not brands—are the channel. This adage from the authors of The Most Powerful Brand on Earth, Chris Bourdreaux and Susan Emerick. Once you feel confident on social media, having a presence where you regularly share brand content not only helps Michigan Tech, but it establishes you as a thought leader.

  • What are the goals of the department?
  • How do you welcome new team members?  
  • What are you working on?
  • What’s happening behind-the-scenes? (We know you can’t share everything…)
  • What resources might your audience find useful?
  • Talk about your outside interests (hiking, skiing, paddling, etc.)
  • What opportunities are available in your area? (jobs, scholarships)
  • What book are you reading?
  • Tell us when you’re headed to a conference.

Nothing profound coming to mind? You can get the latest Michigan Tech news right to your email inbox each Monday morning. Visit mtu.edu/news and click the gold ‘Subscribe’ button. Having all the links in one spot makes it easy to read and share with family, friends, and colleagues on your favorite platform.

Celebrate

Hard work will pays off and deserves to be celebrated—often. A simple kudos or shoutout on social media is virtually free, but pays dividends for you, your colleagues, and our brand.

As you’re out and about social media, mining for great stories to share to our external audiences, don’t forget about one of our most important voices—yours. Real. Authentic. Honest. Just like our brand.

–Shannon Rinkinen
Brand Manager


How Do You Make a Clever Idea On-Brand?

As marketers, we can sometimes feel pressure to be creative and drum up clever ideas. These days, clever ideas from brands are all around us—on our social media and on our chip bag. When we look at the higher-ed landscape, we can feel compelled to play or borrow creative tactics that work for our competitors. This is a good thing! We’re not a national brand like Nike or Pepsi or M&Ms; we don’t necessarily need to be on the frontline of cute and clever across billboards, Super Bowl commercials, or glossy ads.

When a cute or clever idea catches your eye, ask yourself: Does it make sense for Michigan Tech’s brand—and how?
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