Who wouldn’t want to be Tufts – a major university ranked as a “hot school” since the early 1990s? Tufts’ Boston-area location and just-right size – not too big, not too small – make it perfect in the eyes of college-searching teens. And yet, Tufts found itself in the mid-’oughts with significant marketing challenges: a diffuse image, lack of brand integration across its varied professional schools and institutes, and a reputation as a backup to the Ivies. They needed a brand platform to bring their organization into the new millennium and motivate alumni to take pride in their alma mater. The work needed to create an emotional tie that would sustain a major fundraising push. So they came to Neustadt Creative Marketing.
The story continues after the jump.
In 2005, NCM embarked on an extensive research program leading to a comprehensive brand platform for the entire university, both undergraduate and graduate components. The research protocol we designed for Tufts was comprehensive, surveying current students, faculty, and administrators, prospective students and alumni of all seven professional schools along with the School of Arts & Sciences. Resulting from that research was a brand platform that knitted together the parts into a whole and provided a platform for future growth. The adoption of that brand platform led to the design of a new identity system and school logo. Next was a new generation of admissions recruitment materials. Finally, we developed a marketing campaign for the School of Engineering.
Results of that initial round of work were tremendous. Before long, applicants were writing admissions essays that explained why they wanted to be at Tufts – and nowhere else. Academic quality and yield increased, and the University completed its most ambitious and successful capital campaign. The results were also enormously rewarding for NCM. The admissions viewbook won a Gold Medal from CASE. The logo is still used pervasively on signage at all three campuses, as well as on sweatshirts and spirit wear.
A relationship that good can't end there. After six years of updates and reprints of the viewbook, Tufts requested a new round of research and admissions strategy in late 2010. A communications audit, a review of messaging strategy for overlap schools, and focus groups targeting current and prospective applicant pools to the School of Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering, including prospective parents, made up the bulk of the research.
Our research findings led us to a new direction for Tufts Undergraduate Admissions. The Tufts University website was ready for an overhaul. But Undergraduate Admissions could not wait for that day to come. They needed a way to control the online environment in which prospects encountered Tufts – to enclose the experience within its own URL. In that space, Tufts Admissions could introduce academic programs and majors, saving prospects the trouble of clicking to an array of department-maintained webpages. An admissions microsite was the way to go.
With detailed program, application, and visit information housed on the Web, the viewbook could serve a wholly different purpose. In fact, Tufts no longer needed a viewbook. They could replace it with a thrice-yearly magazine targeted to the seasonal audience - rising seniors in the fall, admitted students in the spring, and juniors and everyone else in summer. Alongside creation of the new microsite, JUMBO magazine was born. NCM took it through six issues before turning over the reins.
In the meantime, NCM produced a highly innovative publication exclusively for prospective students of the School of Engineering. The piece cut through the school’s story in two ways. First, it highlighted the three main themes of the institution. Second, it highlighted the major programs by featuring cutting-edge research and the professors who do it.
Designed and built by Fastspot, with whom we worked to execute brand and admissions strategy on the Web, Tufts’ new admissions microsite set an industry standard for the incorporation of social media into an admissions marketing campaign. The School of Engineering work played a role in big boosts in overall applications and in the number of female applicants. A year after implementation of the new admissions microsite and JUMBO admissions magazine, Tufts announced an 11% year-over-year increase in applications. Those are Jumbo returns on investment.