Published on 2013/10/17

Marketing CE: A Sitting Failure

Marketing CE: A Sitting Failure
While university-branded chairs can be seen out and about town, very few new enrollees have pointed to the chairs as a reference to the institution.
Our city of roughly 50,000 has a yearly Christmas parade and, predictably, a majority of residents join the festivities. Over the years, I’ve noticed many people bring folding chairs — the same style I’ve seen with logos plastered all over them.

As community members spend hours in tight quarters and are often friendly, I thought about finding a way to put our university’s logo on the chairs in hopes of getting folks to talk about their local educational institution. The chairs literally support the students and would, hopefully, figuratively support the local university.

Besides, word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most cost-effective means of marketing.

After ordering a few boxes of folding chairs (at a cost of roughly $15 per chair) with our logo printed across the back, I quietly provided chairs to positive, vocal students I had noticed in our non-credit classes over the year.

At the next parade, I walked the route and spotted a few of our folding chairs. Over the next year, a few new students told us they had heard of us from friends or family, but not specifically as a result of the chair. (Truth be told, I had not expected people to remember us from a logo on the back of a chair on a sunny December day.)

Marketing CE: A Sitting Failure
Though great during daylight hours, at night the information on the chair us impossible to see.
The following year, the parade was trial run as an evening event with a festival of lights. By the time the parade started, you couldn’t see the logo on our chairs. The evening parade was deemed a success by the organizers, and my chair logos have since faded into the sunset. Perhaps folding chairs with small LED lights installed, or reflective material embedded in the logo, would have worked, but both of these modifications seem too extreme for a simple marketing item.

Once or twice a year I’ll see a chair with our logo at the 4th of July celebration, or at local Little League fields. But, for the most part, this marketing idea failed in the long run.

I haven’t taken this failure sitting down, though. Many more marketing and promotion ideas are still being used and new ideas are under consideration.

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Readers Comments

RF 2013/10/17 at 7:09 am

I’m not surprised the folding chairs weren’t successful. How often do people use folding chairs in public spaces, where the logo would be seen and could be used as a conversation starter? One marketing item my CE unit has found quite useful is branded post-it notes. What’s good about them is the repeated exposure our logo gets. Every time someone scribbles something down or sticks a note somewhere, he or she sees our logo. We’re still trying to determine whether we can trace any enrollments back to this exposure. Anecdotally, we’ve had a few new students mention having seen our post-it notes and asking if they could have some; we’re very pleased with this.

    John DeLalla 2013/10/22 at 3:51 pm

    Thanks for your comment about Post It Notes!
    Yes, we use those too – a block of 540 sheets with our logo/phone/URL on the top. The side of the cube also has our general school logo on it. The logo is seen on desks and then again on each sheet. Often the notes are placed on work documents being passed along for signature approvals, so the hopefully the right managers and HR folks are becoming aware of our offerings as well.
    Cost is about $4/cube and we order about 1,000 at once. Like you said, very popular with students. Most students go through a cube in about a year, so it’s a great reminder to come back to class again when the cube is nearly gone. 🙂

Francis Beyer 2013/10/17 at 3:40 pm

I enjoy reading DeLalla’s series and seeing the various failures and successes he’s had. So far, I haven’t noted any consistent patterns for what works and what doesn’t.

My question is: would you say marketing is more of a trial-and-error endeavor for universities, or are there some strategies that are generally successful and some that are prone to failure?

    John DeLalla 2013/10/22 at 4:10 pm

    Francis –
    Thanks for your comment – and I too haven’t noticed a pattern to find what works in my market – other than trial and error. 🙂

    In terms of strategies, there is relatively little published about how to market a university, degree program, etc. Here on the Evolllution there is a healthy amount of marketing information.

    In terms of strategies, each market, program, university, etc is different. Each marketing plan will be tweaked just a bit differently to meet the unique needs of the institution. In my market we have a small community but generating awareness is still one of my most challenging aspects, so I do a lot of promotional products to generate awareness, as we have limited mass media/outdoor, and limited social media usage. Word of mouth is still one of the best marketing methods out there.

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