Columbia Launches New, Research-Based Image Campaign
By Kristi Turnbaugh
October 8, 2013
In September, Columbia College Chicago unveiled a new image campaign to raise awareness about the college among key audiences. Touting the headline “Live What You Love” and the message “Create Your Career,” the ads can be found on Chicagoland buses, trains, bus shelters, and el platforms; in local print and digital magazines; and on billboards. The Chicago campaign is the first phase of a multiyear plan to heighten awareness of Columbia in the city and ultimately across the United States.
Although the college has implemented image campaigns over the past four years, this one is firmly rooted in market research, says Diane Doyne, associate vice president of Marketing and Communications.
The project began in fall 2012, when Doyne and Senior Vice President Warren K. Chapman convened a steering committee of staff and faculty members from across the college to determine key Columbia attributes and themes essential to the Columbia brand. Next was a brand review led by global public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller, which laid the groundwork for the brand research designed to test multiple themes with key audience groups: prospective students, parents, high school guidance counselors, and influencers (generally defined as people who have an effect on the decisions of prospective college students). Penn Schoen Berland, a global research firm, gathered feedback through focus groups in four cities and 530 national online surveys.
“Live What You Love” has been a recent mantra at Columbia, and the research results showed that the most compelling way to communicate this was to combine it with a second, career-focused theme. Therefore, the new campaign marries the idea that students can “Live What You Love” and “Create Your Career” at Columbia. “These ads will build awareness about Columbia College Chicago being a school that’s focused on arts education and the place where students who are passionate about their craft will create a career from the education they get here,” says Chapman. “That message was the clear winner across all our audiences.”
Phase 1 advertising stars Columbia students engaged in a variety of disciplines, including music, film, and dance. (Future phases will take different approaches.) The ads were produced completely in-house by Columbia’s award-winning Creative Services Department led by Assistant Vice President Mary Forde. Photographer Jacob Boll (BA ’12) captured the students in action, and Art Director Ben Bilow designed the vibrant, eye-catching ads. For the fourth year, Senior Director of Marketing Brenda Berman managed the overall campaign project and coordinated media planning.
“In today’s higher ed marketing, it’s rare to have in-house staff do all the creative planning, production, design, and media planning,” says Chapman. “It’s usually outsourced and very expensive.”
Chapman and Doyne emphasize the importance of implementing a multiyear, multiplatform campaign. Just a few years ago, says Chapman, it was typical for colleges to implement only print ads and billboards for image campaigns. “But that is no longer enough to make an impact,” says Chapman. “Now, you have to be everywhere; your identity must go across a variety of platforms to be seen and to be successful.”
Over the past four years, billboards have consistently generated more anecdotal buzz and feedback than any other medium, Doyne says, and they are the “high-impact” element of an integrated campaign that also includes digital placements, which are easily measured and tracked. Columbia’s new ad in Crain’s Chicago Business’ iPad app delivered 45,000 impressions its first week; their Breaking News email delivers approximately 350,000 monthly impressions. Transit and billboard ads will garner nearly 54 million impressions over the fall.
Columbia’s Institutional Marketing and Communications team will monitor the campaign and adjust messaging and/or placements as needed. In the next 24 months, follow-up research will measure the cumulative benefits. Phase 2 is expected to roll out in the spring.
Here are the eight billboard locations:
- Kennedy Expy (I-90/94) at Montrose Avenue
- Stevenson Expy (I-55) at Dan Ryan (I-90/94)
- Stevenson Expy (I-55) at Central Ave
- Fairbanks Avenue at Grand Ave.
- Northwest Twy (I-90) at Wolf Road
- Eisenhower Expy (I-290) at Central Avenue
- Tri-State Twy (I-294) at Devon Avenue
- Kennedy Expy (I-90/94) at Western Ave
To view the Phase 1 advertising, check out the slideshow below.
For more information about the image campaign, contact Diane Doyne at 312-369-7524.