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Thinking Outside The Box: Welcome To Thinking Cap Agency

“We tried that once and it didn’t work.”

“That’s not how we do things around here.”

As a vice president for enrollment and marketing for the past 25 years, I wish I had collected a nickel every time I heard one of my colleagues utter words like those. I’d be a very wealthy lady to say the least!

Look, we all get that the prospective students we are trying to reach these days have changed dramatically from the ones who came before them. According to the Refuel Agency 2019 Gen Z Study:

“Gen Z teens are coming of age and our world will soon be reshaped in their image. Our economy, our culture and even our media will be forever transformed. It is important for marketers and advertisers to keep up with the trends by understanding the mindset and preferences of this coveted audience.”

Yet most colleges and universities have not shifted the way they tell their brand story. Most haven’t thought about how to integrate tried and true communication channels, like our viewbooks and list buy search strategies, with the student-journey experience of visitors to our website, the ways we engage in social media and the ways we allocate our ever-shrinking recruitment and marketing dollars to re-target, re-market and geo-fence, in order to keep pace.

Sure, we dabble with building a YouTube channel for our institutions. Sticking highly polished, 15 minute interviews with faculty members or uncomfortably canned ‘candid’ quad chats between ‘students’ all decked out in logo wear onto our channels. And then end up disappointed that we didn’t attract the mass following that Kylie Jenner enjoys. And in the off chance that a prospective student did engage and ask us a question in the chat under the video, most of us didn’t have a clear monitoring strategy to respond in real-time and leverage the student outreach. So, we abandoned that approach. After all, “we tried that once and it didn’t work!”

And then we were brave enough to explore an Instagram and Twitter presence. We even came up with a few dozen really cool hashtags and tried to convince Gen Z’ers to be our personal brand influencers by sharing pictures of our beautiful campuses or promotions of an upcoming open house. And yet, for some reason, it never caught on the way we hoped, so we abandoned that approach too.

According to the same Refuel Agency Gen Z study:


So naturally we experimented with SEO and SEM.  But we got lost in the number of keywords available, the parameters to wrap around our ‘digital footprint’ and how to tie these ‘virtual ads’ back to our own websites and student information systems. We didn’t necessarily tag our landing pages to track traffic or leverage first-party data to identify those ‘stealth’ visitors to our channels.

In an effort to save time and money, we tried to re-purpose the content from our brochures and long-form videos, without realizing that in a video obsessed culture short-form authentic messaging reigns supreme.

And when all of this experimentation didn’t work, the weary concluded that this simply isn’t how we should do things around here. We tried it. It didn’t work.

Now what?

Today’s successful recruitment and enrollment marketing professionals know it isn’t about any one tool or tactic. It’s about the interconnected, omni-channel integration of what has worked in the past with emerging, disruptive approaches that are responsive to the ever-evolving students we are trying to connect with and bring to campus.

But we can’t do this alone. If it takes a village to raise a child, it certainly takes a partnership with creative and experienced thinkers to meet and exceed our enrollment goals.  At Thinking Capwe intentionally challenge old assumptions, stick with those that have proven results, strategically leverage technology and story-telling with analytics and data and curate an integrated, long-term, highly successful roadmap for our clients to follow.  We become an extension of your own marketing and recruitment teams to influence enrollment outcomes, build cost-effective and highly measurable strategies and embrace out of the box thinking. 

 So stop collecting nickels for every time you hear, “We simply can’t keep up!” and start leading the way.  Thinking Cap is your partner. 

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