The Salvation Army is one of the world’s best-known not-for-profit brands. But Winnipeg’s Booth University College, The Salvation Army’s only degree-granting institution, hasn’t yet benefitted from that global recognition. Booth UC turned to ED to help increase awareness among a specific audience of students and parents, and have more of them consider Booth UC on the choice set for post-secondary education.
Small, niche and misunderstood – where do I apply?
Our challenge was to provide students and their parents with a compelling reason to consider Booth UC: a university college with a limited number of academic programs, a misunderstood offering, and a small student body.
As a faith-based institution, research indicated that some students believed Booth UC catered only to Salvationist or Christian students. And while Booth UC does offer Salvationist Officer training, students of all faiths – or no faith – are welcome to enrol in its broader academic programming.
Booth UC’s social work program is also one of the most sought after in the region. However, its other academic programs don’t have the same profile – leading some to mistakenly believe Booth UC focuses only on social work education.
And with a student body floating around 300 and a campus comprised of two adjacent downtown buildings, Booth UC’s footprint – both in terms of student and alumni advocates, and physical space, is far less visible than other institutions. This includes the University of Winnipeg, the region’s second-largest university – with close to 10,000 full and part-time students – located right across the street.
What they said: Willing to go where the need is greatest.
Booth UC knew their offering wasn’t going to appeal to everyone. And it didn’t have to: unlike larger institutions, a double-digit increase in program enrolment for Booth UC would represent a significant boost. Our job was to find a way to appeal to the right students and their influencers, and persuade them that Booth UC was the right choice.
So who were the ‘right students’?
After familiarizing ourselves with Booth UC’s strategic plan (a foundational step when developing a brand for any post-secondary institution), surveying students and faculty, and consulting with staff and faculty in facilitated discussion sessions, we discovered that one of Booth UC’s most distinctive attributes was a commitment to social justice.
A powerful insight.
Whether pursuing film studies as a means of sharing important stories that drive change, or studying cyber crime as a means of protecting citizens, a sense of altruism runs through Booth UC’s program offering, and is cited as a reason students choose the institution.
Our scan of other national faith-based institutions showed that they also emphasize social justice – but Booth UC was the only one that did not lead with their Christian faith in their positioning. Booth UC’s location was also unique among these faith-based schools. Most competitors are located in suburban, often affluent neighbourhoods, while Booth UC is purposefully located in Winnipeg’s downtown. In their words, “We go where the need is greatest.”
Underlying Booth UC’s story was a sense of individuality: students who chose Booth UC were making an unpopular choice. They were willing to go somewhere their friends didn’t in order to study what mattered most to them and their impact in the world. We saw an opportunity to leverage that sense of purpose into Booth UC’s expression.
What we saw: Where a better world begins.
Armed with Booth UC’s existing tagline, “Education for a better world”, we developed a brand narrative that leveraged a shared commitment to social justice, a bold sense of altruism, and the confidence to stand apart. Phrases like, “We don’t believe in an easy world, we believe in a better world,” immediately liaised with Booth UC’s existing messaging. Others, like, “It doesn’t take an army to change the world – but it helps.” provided a just-enough nod to their affiliation with The Salvation Army.
The narrative was immediately embraced, repurposed to speaking notes for Booth UC’s leadership, and adapted into a brand story video that is used for presentations and shared online.
Using the narrative as a foundation, we developed a multi-media campaign for Booth UC that challenges students to ‘be the change’ they want to see in the world. Each creative features a Booth UC University College student answering a call we put to them: to be the one who leans in, who stands up, who opens others’ eyes.
Based on Booth UC’s niche market appeal, digital assets were prioritized to target prospective students whose online interests and activity demonstrated that they would be receptive to a unique academic choice like Booth UC. For a small school in an urban centre with a total student body of slightly more than 450 students, we expanded their community’s reach by delivering more than 4,000,000 online impressions to like-minded students and parents within the immediate region. Offline, we provided Booth UC with the tools to share their unique story with the country, and the world.
The campaign was introduced to market in 2018 and was immediately integrated across Booth UC’s marketing materials, social feeds and website. In its 2018/2019 annual report, Booth UC proudly reported its highest enrolment to date, showing significant progress towards its goal of 500 full-time equivalent (FTE) students.