Demonstrate your higher ed institution’s impact

By Sharon Aschaiek | June 20, 2018

Effective marketing depends a lot on telling great stories. Fortunately, higher education is ripe with interesting, inspiring tales to tell. This is something that Aalto University in Finland understands very well, as is clear from its recent “What If” marketing campaign.

The school recently won the top prize at the 2018 conference of the European Association of Communication Professionals in Higher Education (EUPRIO). Campaigns were awarded based on an assessment by a jury and by audience votes. Assessment criteria included project originality, creativity in concept and execution, success in meeting defined objectives and cost.

The What If campaign does an outstanding job of highlighting several of Aalto’s bold research, arts and teaching projects in an original, creative way. Stories, photos and videos bring to life the big questions the university is probing, and these questions really have the wow factor:

  • What if cattle all over the world were eating Finnish wood?
  • What if there were one hundred Finnish satellites in space?
  • What if persistent business problems could be solved overnight?

These are interesting, provocative questions – perfect for capturing attention and enticing one to explore further.

Complementing the stories are dynamic, creative photos plus brief videos that explain each project. Here’s one that answers another big question: What if retirement homes were replaced with grandma’s cottage? The school shares a brief video on its efforts to make seniors’ housing more comfortable and convenient.

In a EUPRIO blog post, campaign creator Minna Hölttä, senior science editor at Aalto University, described the evolution of the campaign this way:

“We wanted to show that the research being done at our university matters; to bring the academic world a little closer to our grandparents, the small business opening up on the corner, and even our neighbours’ kids.

“We also knew that jargon and a sliver-thin focus often gets in the way. That’s why we decided to strip that old way of doing things away and show our experts talking like people.”

What does this campaign, with its compelling stories and clever framing, ultimately achieve? It clearly reflects the impact and benefits of scientific research being conducted at Aalto. More broadly, it shows the important role Aalto is playing in driving social, environmental and economic progress.

If there’s one key takeaway from this campaign for higher education communicators and marketers, it’s this: be imaginative and innovative when sharing your school’s accomplishments and success stories. Thinking outside the box will lead to fresh ideas that can cut through the clutter of marketing messages. Try new things and take some risks!


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