Campus Visionaries Make History

Need to spread the word on what makes your organization special? Take some tips from one university's unique marketing campaign – and make sure promotional products are part of the mix.

Purdue University's movers and shakers were celebrated in fine style during last season's homecoming events. The "Makers, All" campaign recognized visionary students, faculty and alumni who made a mark on the world. From peacemakers and history makers to filmmakers, poets and spacecraft manufacturers, the Boilermakers have established a legendary tradition of employing creative ingenuity, drive and determination to make a positive impact on the world.

Conceived with the input of more than 5,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, prospective students, corporate partners and other stakeholders, the campaign employed a multimedia, multidisciplinary approach to engage the university community in spreading the word about its success, values and reputation.

"Boilermakers have a long-standing tradition of serving as catalysts for transformation around the world, from noteworthy alumni who have left a perpetual mark on the cosmos to dedicated researchers who toil in relative anonymity to solve some of the world's most vexing challenges," says Teri Lucie Thompson, Purdue's chief marketing officer and vice president of marketing and media.

During the 2010 homecoming football game, Purdue orchestrated a text-to-win giveaway that asked attendees to identify what kind of "maker" they were. More than 3,000 texts later, they exhausted their supply of T-shirts, produced by University Spirit.

Purdue also created customizable stickers, produced by Printing Services, to give wearers the opportunity to share what kind of "maker" they are by filling in a blank. About 6,000 stickers were distributed at Homecoming. The remaining 4,000 that were printed are continuing to be distributed at the Visitor Information Center.

Finally, a promotional products distributor worked with Purdue to create more than 5,000 "Maker" buttons in five different designations. These were distributed at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C.

The campaign also had a technology component. Purdue engaged their audience in conversation through the "Makers" site and interactive forums. They invited the Boilermaker community to share their own story about the kind of impact they make on the world. The site also supported video uploads, photos and text.

The marketing campaign was designed to uniquely capture the essence of the Boilermaker persona: energetic, optimistic, enthusiastic, creative, curious, capable and reliable. "There is an old saying in real estate: ‘location, location, location,'" Thompson says. "In branding, particularly in brand engagement, I emphasize ‘relevance, relevance, relevance!' This is particularly critical in the increasingly competitive and cluttered higher education category. You have to make sure your brand is relevant to the consumer – in this case, young adults – because if it is not, nothing else matters."