By Jesse Prieto and CJ Gates
News Editor and Editor-in-Chief
After two years spent trying to discover the best way to go exploring around Canisius, the College has finally found an advertising campaign that gives prospective students what they want: specifics. Since 2012, the College has suffered from mistaken identity. The $500,000 marketing campaign was overpriced and quite simply considered an embarrassment by many in the community.
Despite numerous requests, administration has refused to provide the finances behind the new “You Can” campaign, so it is impossible to corroborate the claims that money has been saved by internalizing strategic planning. However, having been denied the price tag, students and faculty have found the new “You Can” tagline and “Exceeding Your Expectations” slogan to be a bold step in the right direction.
After a year of planning that included market research, community opinion and a comprehensive branding study, Canisius Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communication Matthew Z. Wojick has full confidence in this new, public face of the College.
Having already had a soft opening to the campaign just before last week’s Open House on 26 Sept., the marketing team has decided that the first broad-based exposure of the new graphics will begin on 15 Oct. with 12 billboards split between Buffalo and Rochester along with television commercials across Western New York rolling out the following week. These efforts will then be complemented by a digital and social media blitz targeting residents ranging from Central New York to Cleveland, Ohio.
The College’s comprehensive marketing research, which was outsourced in large part to Edge Research based out of Virginia, was made up of two phases that began in May of this year. First, a quantitative approach to better understand the wants and desires of the consumer—a survey of 620 prospective high school students, their parents, and potential graduate students— was conducted. The survey found that while the College has strong name recognition, it lacks familiarity.
This trend was consistent with comments from incoming students who claimed to have not been introduced to the opportunities at the College until actually setting foot on campus.
Canisius prides itself on the welcoming student body and eager faculty who are willing to invest in their students; a culture that incoming students explained was only revealed after arriving on campus. Recent advancements such as the creation of the academic Griff Center were strategic initiatives, planned and executed to break down bureaucratic walls that traditionally separated prospective and new students from access to the community at large. It’s important to note that these improvements show promise, having already boosted inter-office communication and improving response time for student needs.
Wojick explained that, while this enticed visiting students to enroll the following year, those viewing the College via the website or other media were simply left out of the loop.
“We really do have good name recognition,” Wojick said, “[but] less so among high school students. While they know the name they don’t really know much about us.”
The uniqueness of the word “Canisius” is a selling point that has yet to be fully realized. What is most unsettling was the fact that the majority of participants were residents of Western New York or within the frequent recruiting centers in the Northeast corridor.
The results from this quantitative survey were then transferred into a qualitative study, which played with specific phraseology and tested various slogans such as “Magis in Action,” “The City College of Buffalo,” the College’s former tagline “Where Leaders Are Made” and “Exceed You Expectations” on public opinion.
With the two-phase comprehensive market research campaign completed, the administration was confident that it has learned from past mistakes and that it will be able to reach out to the target audience: prospective students.
What they found was different than had been professed in previous years. This generation is interested in specifics. Those surveyed ranked what they wished to know about a prospective school and the overwhelming majority of cases showed a need to see what the marketing team calls “tangibles.”
Freelance Writer and Creative Consultant Crista Geary explained that this research became the foundation for this new campaign in order “to really highlight what is special about Canisius education, so that people would be familiar with what we are known for, what we’re good at and those student experiences.”
According to Wojick, students placed “teaching ethics and values” low on their list of collegiate priorities, and instead sought clear examples of students who have been set up for success, evidence that Canisius is a good investment of tuition dollars, and that there will be plenty of opportunities for research and hands-on learning.
Another objective in the design, Geary said, was to assure that the rebranding was “really ownable – you see a lot of ads out there that feel like someone else’s name could get put at the end of it.” Therefore both the text and golden color of You Can bring attention back to name recognition while blending in nicely with the any number of subtitles that introduce a unique Canisius experience.
With a heavy emphasis on photography, You Can will be extremely visual. Stock photos will not be used, instead the campaign will be taking advice from students and faculty using the photos and experiences that they provide.
The You Can campaign will soon come front and center on the Canisius home page that is set to be rolled out within a few days with the hopes that the entire website will be redesigned by Spring 2016. The new home page, currently being designed OHO Interactive, a Boston-based web design firm, will feature four student profiles that will be refreshed every two months, along with select social media posts that are aggregated by Tint, a social media aggregating company hired by the College, that highlight various aspects of Canisius Life.
The faculty and staff who populated the advertising campaign information sessions had a few suggestions for the campaign. Fr. Michael Tunney, S.J. raised concerns that the terms “Catholic” or “Jesuit” were nowhere to be found in the campaign; Sarah Signorino, Associate Campus Minister, wondered if it was possible to have a map of service or study abroad opportunities; and Kathleen DeLaney, the College Archivist, wanted to know if the College’s history and tradition could be more prominent in the campaign.
Given the early stages of the ad campaign, Wojick welcomed all suggestions from faculty, staff and students. Since the campaign will be featuring actual Canisius students, it will allow the campaign to grow organically, allowing many of the suggestions to be incorporated.