Indiana State University has historically focused the majority of its marketing efforts on attracting new students. Now, with enrollment on a steady upward trend, the university has added a new campaign that is aimed at a different audience.
“There’s More to Blue” is the theme of television and radio commercials, print ads, billboards, digital media – even ads on city buses – launched this month in several of the state’s larger media markets. The new campaign is designed to show how Indiana State serves the needs of the state and its communities. The messages are aimed at so-called “influencers,” meaning business and government leaders, alumni and the general public.
The campaign has been several months in the making, with a board of trustees retreat in the summer of 2011 serving as its genesis, said John Beacon, vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communications.
“The board asked the president to add a new point of focus to its marketing portfolio,” Beacon said. “We’re meeting our enrollment goals, so the board thought it time to create greater public awareness of the contributions the university is making economically around the state.”
To ensure that “fresh eyes” looked at the university’s marketing needs, Beacon’s office sent a request for proposals to more than a half dozen agencies around the country and selected Mindpower, an Atlanta-based firm that has worked with more than 150 universities during its nearly 20 years of existence, to develop the new campaign.
“Mindpower is a forward thinking and creative agency and has come up with a very energetic and targeted media campaign,” Beacon said. “Our collaboration with Mindpower is intended to advance the awareness of the university’s work state-wide in economic development, research, and technical innovation.”
Before commencing work on the campaign, Mindpower staff made two one-week visits to Indiana State for meetings with focus groups both on campus and off campus and had an in-depth discussion about the university’s strategic plan that has been in place for four years.
“The Mindpower team was very good at listening and they met with board members, alumni and legislators to get an impression of how Indiana State is perceived across the state,” Beacon said.
Even before Mindpower was chosen to conduct the campaign, however, company President Lisa Jordan reached out to several friends in Indianapolis. They each told her they knew Indiana State is “doing really good things” but articulating specifics was harder for them.
“What was interesting to us was that there was a sense of momentum and energy happening at Indiana State (but) nobody really knew exactly what that was, so we were curious what the buzz was about that nobody could define,” Jordan said.
“Once we got here, it seemed to us that Indiana State was capturing the middle market” in higher education that lies between major research universities and regional colleges and universities, she said. “Indiana State, for the most part, is attracting a diverse range of students who want to make better lives for themselves.”
The theme of “There’s More to Blue” and a conscious effort to stress the full name “Indiana State” rather than “ISU” emerged from the realization that the university “owns” blue in Indiana – meaning no other major university uses it as its primary color – and the recognition that Indiana State is a university that serves the whole state from Fort Wayne to Evansville, Jordan and Beacon said.
“The ultimate goal is to make Indiana State University so familiar that when people hear, ‘I’m going to State,’ they will think ‘Indiana State’,” Beacon said.
Mindpower did not deliberately set out to develop a campaign around the word “more,” used in the long-running tagline “More. From day one,” Jordan said. Rather, the idea is to simply tell the audience more about Indiana State and its valuable impact on the state’s economy, she said.
“We’ve taken a word that is currently being used and shifted it in a way that allows the university to expand the campaign beyond influencers, if it chooses to do so,” Jordan said. “It can work for student recruitment, it can work for alumni relations and it can work in athletics.”
Several Indiana State students, faculty and staff were involved in creating television commercials and other ads now running in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Evansville and South Bend. The ads direct readers and viewers to a special webpage, www.indstate.edu/blue, that features the theme “We’re for Indiana” and includes links to news releases detailing how the university serves the state in a variety of areas: business, community service, economic development, education, health, science, sustainability and technology.
The campaign will run aggressively through the spring and into early summer, when university officials will assess it analytically to determine if it is achieving its intended goal of increasing awareness about “State” among targeted audiences, Beacon said.
“Assessment will be critical to where we go next,” he said, “but this is a well-thought through plan, intelligently designed and skillfully launched by Mindpower, which has a record of success.”
With new student enrollment at record levels the past three years, campus pride running high among students, faculty and staff, and the eyes of the state on Indiana State, the timing and the momentum are right for the “There’s More to Blue” campaign, Beacon said.
“We have a lot about which to be proud at Indiana State,” he said. “We’re excited to tell our story to a broader population and use this campaign to shine a spotlight on the creative work and many valuable accomplishments of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.”
Dave Taylor is the director of Indiana State’s media relations.