CASSIES Bronze: University of Manitoba turns a negative into a positive

To turn around prospective students' perceptions of Manitoba being cold, flat and remote, a two-phase campaign was launched.

Long Term Success

Situation Analysis: In the opinion of prospective post-secondary students and parents from across the country, Manitoba was cold, flat and remote. The result being the University of Manitoba was not regarded as a destination post-secondary institution to prospective students. Enrolment had plateaued, a situation not helped by the university’s messaging being fragmented with each of the 24 faculties and departments working with independent brands and marketing budgets. The university needed a compelling story it could tell with a unified voice.

Insight & Strategy: Research identified five key decision factors for undergraduate students looking at selecting a university or college: academic, outcome, campus, financial and nurturing. The University of Manitoba was competitive and could deliver tangibly on all these aspects but the image of the University was inextricably linked with negative perceptions of the province itself, which far outweighed the academic reputation. However, Manitoba challenges those who live there to adapt, innovate, invent and make something out of nothing. The location could be positioned as a point of strength rather than a barrier to be overcome using the idea, “Where you are shapes who you are.”

Execution: Running from March 2011 to March 2014 across national print and online news to raise the university’s profile among national influencers, along with OOH and online in Winnipeg and Brandon for the local market, the campaign also reached out to alumni of the University of Manitoba, current and prospective university donors, academic and research peers at other national post-secondary institutions and members of government.
Phase one, “I am a Trailblazer,” juxtaposed evocative images of young children with statements of empowerment, set against quintessential Manitoba panoramas. In Phase two, “the Professor’s Inner Child,” professors told their stories from the perspective of their child selves, with a call to action to visit an online fulfillment piece where each story was expanded upon and linked to University of Manitoba accomplishments in key areas of study. In both phases, key brand power words – rebels, pioneers, creators, adventurers, trailblazers, innovators, challengers, mavericks, trendsetters, and visionaries – were used to define the personality types that embodied a new and distinctly ownable brand for the University of Manitoba.

Results: In 2012, enrollment grew by 2.9%, breaking the overall student body record set in 2005, coming on the heels of the 2011 academic year, which saw a 1.5% increase in overall enrollment. Over the course of the campaign, enrolment goals have been exceeded, and as of fall 2013, the university’s student body was close to capacity. Internal stakeholders recognized the value of aligning all university communications behind a single resonant voice with numerous administrative departments integrating the brand theme into their communications.

Cause & Effect: Advertising for this campaign was focused on the University of Manitoba’s traditional recruitment markets, while tuition fees saw slight annual increases throughout the campaign. The university saw a four million dollar increase in donations during the first 12 months of the campaign, as compared to the previous 12-month period.

Client: The University of Manitoba
VP (external): John Kearsey
Associate VP, outreach and engagement: Leah Janzen
Executive director, marketing communications office: John Danakas
Director, creative solutions, marketing communications office: Lori Yarchuk
Director, client relations, marketing communications office: Erik Athavale
Marketing coordinators, marketing communications office: Deanna Fair, Lindsey Wiebe
Agency: McKim Communications Group
President and CEO: Peter George
VP accounts and strategic services: Audra Lesosky
VP creative: Ron Sawchuk
CD: Brent Morrisseau
Director of creative services: Lisagh King
Account director: Tracy Flett
Media director: Koen Reynaert
Director of public relations and social media: Tamara Bodi
Account manager: Andrea Baryliuk
ACD: Carey Pradinuk
Graphic designers: Tom Boresky, Orville Laoag, Lauren Williamson, Tess Vincent, Caitlin Popoff
Production manager: Gary Gobeil
Director, digital and interactive media: Chris Werstiuk