How Higher Education Marketers Are Adapting Their Tactics to Reach More Students

13 Mar 2018 | Articles

For marketers in today’s landscape, I think it would be fair to say that with the explosion of marketing channels, you have to be all-round marketers. Brands must be present online and offline whilst ensuring the two strategies (which often operate in independent teams) are seamless as well. Essentially, your brand must be omnipresent to simply compete in today’s world, and even more so given our target market are digital savvy Gen-Zers who operate across an array of platforms on a quick touch basis, flitting from one activity to the next making brand engagement increasingly difficult. Therefore, mapping and stitching together the customer journey is not just a nice-to-have but a necessity. After all, marketing budgets are limited so understanding when the right moment to target your audience is, with the right message for maximum impact is of utmost importance to deliver ROI and hit student recruitment goals.

Applying traditional marketing practices to digital

With the lines between offline and online becoming blurred, a holistic approach must be taken by applying a traditional marketing model to digital strategy in a bid to both elevate your brand and reach more students. Using the marketing model AIDA, which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire (or Decision) and Action a lot of marketers bypass the Awareness phase online and jump straight to Interest because perhaps their offline strategy focuses on above the line channels such as TV, radio and print advertisements, which are used to capture the awareness stage. However, by doing this, a large portion of audiences online are missed.


Internet domination

More and more students are moving online. Last year, according to eMarketer, the smartphone became the preferred method to access the internet among adults in the UK. Users are expected to spend over 2 hours on smartphones by 2019 and a rise in digital video is one of the key drivers behind the mobile uptick. Having an awareness strategy that focuses on these channels is therefore paramount.

How to maximise upper funnel tactics

Users are happy to see advertising as long as it is relevant and engaging. A recent survey carried out by Time Inc found that Gen Z respondents seem more open to deepening and developing their relationships with brands. Around 93 percent of Gen Z respondents want brands to do something new and unique in order to connect with them, and 88 percent believe custom content is a way for new brands to reach out to them. Therefore, with all the rich content universities are producing being able to repurpose and target it to the right audience is an ideal way to create a seamless and integrated marketing approach whilst driving efficiencies.

1. Native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed. It is the ideal format to help achieve brand reach and awareness through delivering targeted and dynamic messaging in the moment. It goes hand in hand with social media because it amplifies content strategy through in-feed, in-display and content recommendation native ad formats. With social media being a key influencer in gen-zers day to day lives, marketers can support their social marketing efforts by integrating programmatic native ads into their marketing.


2. Programmatic video is instrumental in capturing audience engagement as it enables higher education brands to visualise their university offering and their story as part of the brand experience. This type of format is ideal for content-rich university websites. Learnings from other sectors targeting students can also be explored. For example, a restaurant chain had the goal to drive awareness for their brand and attract a student demographic during their off-peak times. They employed a combination of tactics to elevate their brand using programmatic branded video to bring their food to life and used geo-targeting to promote their message in the regions that needed it the most. This is a prime example of using digital to deliver a brand awareness and reach strategy in a cost-effective and targeted manner.


3. The more first-party data available the better programmatic works to target the right audience and deliver improved cost efficiency. Almost everything we do today, from interacting with email to online shopping, text messages to tweets, Facebook updates to YouTube videos can be recorded and stored, creating huge volumes of data and insight on who our target audience is, what they do, what they like, and what they’re likely to want or do in the future. With the ability to glean usable and actionable insights from this information, it’s transforming the way in which brands build relationships with prospects and consumers and how they will interact with your brand in the future.

For higher education marketers, being able to use your data to further understand your audience, and action it through your communication channels makes processes more efficient and your marketing more relevant and cost-effective. Whilst traditionally building, tracking and managing site audiences has been a fairly complex and costly process through implementing a DMP, we have developed a Smarter Audience Management pixel that has the same powerful capabilities as a DMP at no additional cost or lengthy set-up.

Our university brands dynamically build their audiences with an intuitive rule-based experience for retargeting, to enhance their digital advertising campaigns. The audience segmentation is as granular as a course or even subject level. Particularly as we think about Clearing, activity can be tailored to prioritise hard to fill courses.

If you would like to discuss any of the above tactics, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with [email protected] or call 020 3603 8610.

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With 10 years of digital media experience, Keely partners with brands to maximise programmatic results by introducing innovative ideas that add value and drive performance. Passionate about understanding the marketing challenges clients face and helping them navigate the evolving AdTech space, Keely works to understand her client’s vision and deliver solutions to get the results they need. Keely has experience across Recruitment, Travel, Retail, Education, Finance, Automotive and B2B.

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