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Case Study: Establishing Brand with the Undergraduate Viewbook

March 21, 2013

CUI viewbook cover 6In our undergraduate admissions communications plan at Concordia University Irvine, a viewbook still plays a key role in branding our university from the inquiry phase and down through the funnel. We send it to high interest inquirers, and applicants who have not received it.

Upon my arrival at Concordia in 2010, a signature print publication was high on my list of those improvements that would be critical to our success because we would use it to establish our branding for the University’s traditional undergraduate market, and then carry it out across all media. I believe we hit a home run.

Our viewbook package was awarded a bronze award in the Total Recruitment Package category in the 27th Annual Educational Advertising Awards sponsored by the Higher Education Marketing Report, and it was a cover story in the Report’s November 2012 issue. But more importantly, it’s been successful in establishing our unique brand position in our market, and has been a strong influence in our admissions growth.

Our viewbook and related collateral were produced by the Lime Twig agency, with important photographic contributions by our university communications team. But it was Lime Twig that came up with the concept, writing, and design that makes our viewbook an engaging read for prospective students.

Our planning for the viewbook was critical, and it focused Lime Twig on the four key characteristics of the Concordia University Irvine brand:

  1. Our innovative and highly regarded Core Curriculum–required of all students–that shapes the Concordia Irvine academic experience, and places us in an elite category of institutions.
  2. Our Grace Alone, Faith Alone student experience rooted in our Lutheran identity, which sets us apart from other Christian universities that either tend toward fundamentalism, or that are less Christian mission-driven.
  3. Vocational calling. While other faith-based institutions may also talk about vocational preparation, we claim ownership of it from a brand perspective. It’s an important part of our Lutheran theology and heritage, thus giving us a rich and sometimes differing perspective for our students.
  4. Our Southern California location and beautiful hillside campus.

Put together, I don’t believe there’s another institution in our region or perhaps anywhere quite like Concordia University Irvine. So, our charge to Lime Twig was to incorporate our brand into a publication that connects with Millennials. We wanted our viewbook to be authentic in a way that is relevant to prospective students.

Lime Twig went to work and came back to us with a proposal that nailed each of these brand selling points with a Millennial-focused voice. The viewbook can be found and a PDF downloaded at:

Written by Judy DeVine, and designed by Ellen Laning, our viewbook begins with a cover page that speaks directly to the Millennial reader, simply and boldly asking, “What Are Your Gifts?” Turning the cover, the viewbook goes on…

“You have been given a particular set of gifts…a mix of talents, abilities, traits, and temperaments that are unique to you. At Concordia University Irvine, we help you discover and develop your God-given gifts, so that you can use them wisely in your future.”

What follows are sections that speak further to Millennials while also talking about the Concordia University Irvine student experience.

  • Exploring Your Gifts
  • Developing Your Gifts
  • Sharing Your Gifts
  • Using Your Gifts

CUI viewbook discovering your giftsIn each of these section introductions, you’ll notice that there are “waves” of quotes that require the viewbook to be moved around while holding it in order to read the quotes. It’s a brilliant design choice. Millennials like to be engaged, and these pages invite the reader to engage the printed piece. Our focus groups loved it.

Of course, a viewbook is not just about the audience. It’s about the institution too. And we believe our viewbook establishes our brand category at the top of the funnel, while also communicating our student experience and brand culture for prospective students further down the funnel.

At the end of the day, any marketing decision must bring a return on investment, and our viewbook package has been important in increasing our admissions numbers. Currently, because of our viewbook and many other tactics, we are experiencing record numbers for inquiries, applications, and admits.

Our work, however, didn’t stop with our viewbook. We also carried out our brand message and design across other media. And what an adventure that was with a cool result. I’ll talk about that next.

See also:

Brand Differentiation Down the Funnel

Higher Education Brand Differentiation: The Top of the Funnel

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