In many parts of Canada, colleges and universities can no longer count on the steady domestic supply of 17- and 18-year-olds they once did to fill their enrolments. This is especially true in Nova Scotia, where demographic changes and outmigration have led to a shrinking youth population. Add in the fact that Nova Scotia has 10 universities and a community college system that offers programs at 13 locations to a provincial population of less than a million, and it’s more important than ever for PSE institutions to position themselves clearly and impactfully in the minds of potential students.
With an enrolment of 2,200 full-time undergraduates, the Halifax-based Mount Saint Vincent University knew that it needed an advertising campaign that would make it stand out from the five other universities located in Halifax, as well as other schools across Nova Scotia and Canada. It was with this goal in mind that it created its “Small Wonder” advertising campaign. But the Mount also knew that it would need reliable research to make sure its message was being heard and was garnering positive responses.
Postsecondary institutions don’t have the resources to be pushing ineffective marketing materials. They need to make the most of every touchpoint with prospective students.
That’s why the Mount called on Academica to conduct a creative materials testing and brand research project: the university needed to understand how high school and postsecondary students perceived Mount and its offerings. Academica developed and administered an online survey to secondary and postsecondary students in Eastern Canada, as well as its secondary markets in Ontario and Albert, to assess their awareness, familiarity with, and perceptions of east coast institutions. The survey also tested students’ overall perceptions of the Mount’s Small Wonder advertising campaign and assessed which ads were most or least preferred by students.
The research validated the efforts of the Mount’s marketing team by indicating a positive response from prospective students who’d seen the school’s ads, while also helping to hone the team’s strategy by providing vital information on its ad performance with different groups. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the research provided insights into which specific programs were running more effective ads than others, allowing the Mount to make creative decisions that were evidence-based and were directly tied to its Strategic Enrolment Management goals at the program level.