3 Reasons Why Evergreen Admissions Media Campaigns Work
Evergreen media campaigns are both helpful and necessary for higher education, especially in the admissions context. They can help colleges and universities in three areas: gaining recognition, preparing for natural audience shifts, and collecting continuous data to inform advertising decisions. Let’s look at each of these benefits, one by one.
1. Gaining recognition
As we mentioned in our first article in this series, gaining recognition is a pretty clear indicator of success in an evergreen campaign. When your audiences see your content consistently over time, you become somewhat of an anticipated player in their media game, and they see your ads as a normal occurrence — sometimes even reciting your tagline or voicing over your narrative in the presence of friends or family.
Gaining that clear recognition — across generations in this case, with parents, high school juniors and seniors, and even younger students — is key to becoming a household name in your most important enrollment markets. This can only be achieved through frequency and consistency (per our previous articles).
We’re not suggesting you blanket the airwaves with TV ads. But a thoughtful, well-curated marketing mix with the sole purpose of driving recognition (outside of dedicated ad sprints) can do a whole lot of good for admissions campaigns over a few years.
2. Preparing for natural audience shifts
As you know, higher ed is a cyclical industry, and that can breed a certain type of complacency. But we’re here to remind you that your immediate admissions audience changes every single year. Every year, new sophomores become juniors, and new juniors become seniors. That means new families and close influencers who are helping these students make this big decision, which will inevitably extend into the rest of their lives and careers.
For many high school students, there’s a certain level of anticipation that they’re getting closer to leaving the nest, and heading out into the next phase of their life, whatever that may be. For a segment of that audience, college is definitely on their list of to-do’s; for others, it may not be the first priority.
In either case, it’s your job as an institution to greet them when they’re ready. Your opportunity to extend a hand and begin a conversation starts by creating powerful, memorable touchpoints that will reach these eager (or sometimes less eager) students. Among them may be a graduate of your institution who makes a “30 Under 30” list just a few short years from now.
As these audiences shift mindsets (shifting from a sophomore to junior, for instance), you would be remiss not to reach them, especially since many of them are at the highest stage of excitement in their college search. This is where your evergreen marketing campaigns come into play.
3. Collecting continuous data to inform advertising decisions
Data: the infamous “D” word that people consciously decide to tune in or tune out. Although it’s not as glamorous as its creative counterpart, data is the part that moves your work forward after it launches.
When you can look at full sets of data year over year, you can get to know your audiences more deeply, even as they shift. You can start to allocate dollars based on when your audiences prove to be most receptive across channels that drive the most engagement. You can start to move away from industry standards and start setting your own standards, based on audience behavior.
Collecting this data also allows for smart insights that can optimize your campaign creative. Are you seeing great traction in Atlanta but poor engagement in Nashville, which is one of your key markets? If so, it’s time to take a look at how the ads and their audiences differ, and make a few tweaks to get them both where they need to be.
When you’re running multiple ad sprints with different spends, different messages, and disheveled timing, you’re really doing a disservice to yourself and your audiences. And we can all agree that that’s never the goal of any campaign.
We know these three things are why evergreen campaigns work. But how do you start planning to launch an evergreen campaign like this?
It doesn’t need to be complicated. It does, however, need to be thoughtful and pragmatic — since we all know marketing budgets encompass a number of initiatives, have to go through several approvals, and function within fairly specific timeframes.
Set an annual budget that’s solely for this kind of campaign, including production and spend, and that can remain consistent or increase over the next one to three years.
Identify your markets with the highest opportunity. Sometimes this is your own backyard, or perhaps you want to gain traction in a new location. Look into your enrollment data to find trends that lead to matriculated students, and examine your “applied but not enrolled” data to see where you can increase yield.
Determine your annual cadence. The key is to be in the market all year long, but that doesn’t mean you won’t flex throughout the year appropriately. Think about what months are key prior to your largest set of college visits, versus when people are staying home and doing their research. This can be a really helpful exercise to determine when your ads are in the market at a higher pace.
We know that building and committing to an evergreen campaign strategy is easier said than done. But once you make a move, you likely won’t want to turn back. Next time you’re feeling stumped on marketing outreach, or you’re contemplating running a quick two-month sprint, take a moment to remember that some of the simplest long-term efforts can make the biggest difference.