Posted by: nickgerlich | September 4, 2007

Looking Buff

Sometimes it takes a while to get things going, but I am finally beginning to see the results of a long labor of love that started back in May 2006. It was at that point I was appointed Chair of the University Marketing Plan Committee. After six months of looking in, looking out, and analyses, we presented our findings to President O’Brien in November that same year.

new WT websiteAnd now, everyone is seeing the first fruit of that work. On Friday 24th August this year, our new website was unveiled to the world, proclaiming an entirely new campaign for the university that we think will carry us close to the President’s goal of 9000 students by 2011.

That new campaign is “Discover the Buff in You,” a bold new statement for a university that never had done any marketing before. All of our previous growth was the result of build-it-and-they-will-come assumptions, along with some wishful thinking.

But our new President has called us to put our Marketing caps on, knowing that universities are in competition with one another. We must actively pursue customers no differently from Target, Macy’s, or McDonald’s.

While the new site is technically a work-in-progress (only the first two levels are done, with drill-down levels to be completed soon), it is a solid first step. The ad agency behind the campaign did extensive testing of the word “Buff” with various constituent groups. Their results indicated that our target audiences viewed the word as reflecting the strength and grandeur of our mascot animal, as well as the more modern interpretation of being fit. Interestingly (and thankfully), no one even mentioned the decades-old connotation that being “buff” meant running around in the nude. Whew!

This is but the beginning. One of the goals with the new site was to include more 21C features, such as blogging (students and faculty) and videos (think YouTube). This allows students to express themselves, but also give parents at home a peak into university life.

WT also plans to manipulate certain levers to attract more students, no small task given that the population of the Panhandle region is barely growing at all. This means we must achieve greater market penetration on our home turf, or, as is more likely the case, make inroads in downstate markets such as Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston.

A combination of on-campus and online efforts will be made, as we fully realize that there are different students types seeking an education, and one program may not work well for everyone. Furthermore, the whispers of an “Amarillo presence” may very well become reality soon. Stay tuned for an announcement this autumn.

In the mean time, it thrills my soul as a Marketer to see my university getting with the program. More than anything, though, I want to know what my students think.

Dr “I’m All Ears” Gerlich

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