All posts by Melissa Chua

5 Must-Have Creative Elements for Your EDU Marketing

Winter Break is around the corner. If you joined us for our recent webinar on Holiday Digital Advertising Strategies for Higher Ed, you know that now is the perfect time to get your campaigns in gear for the new year. Below are five must-have creative elements you can adapt for your institutional branding efforts that will put you on the “nice” list with prospective students all year long.

1. Brand ambassador photography.

Camera-aware, photojournalistic-style imagery coupled with strong messaging can do wonders in increasing audience engagement. It’s also a way to stand out in your global recruitment efforts.

Incorporate stunning brand ambassador photography into your recruitment campaigns, like this one featured on this Brescia University College poster, photographed by Jason Jones and designed by our team at Converge.

Photo of Brescia University College recruitment poster in Trinidad and Tobago:


2. Fierce brand advocacy.

Strong brand stories generated by real students, coupled with laser sharp imagery can accelerate your brand to its full potential.

Identify and engage social media influencers in your student population like this music artist at Columbia College Chicago to help communicate the value of new learning initiatives in an exciting way.


3. Fresh perspectives from your students.

Ask your students thought-provoking questions – and publish the results on social. University of Michigan does this in an elegant way via video that encourages engagement from a diverse set of perspectives.

The secret sauce? Timeliness. Producing useful and interesting content is made exponentially more effective if it’s released with compelling current events that your students care about.


4. Brand experiences IRL.

In-person brand experiences help build school spirit, like this #butlerbound visit campaign. Butler University’s admissions team literally brings the Butler Bulldog on tour to personally visit accepted students in their homes. These visits help forge an intimate affinity with Butler and prevent melt.



5. GIFs, video and moving images.

Cute, but intelligent GIFs for your social posts that simply put your current students in a good mood. They can also instantly convey the value of your institution to prospects in a visual wat. Below are examples of both. Remember, “Emotion, intuition, long-term memories and unconscious motivations make up as much as 80 percent of our decision-making processes,” according to Saatchi and Saatchi.

Enter Love Gnome, ranked the most popular GIF of 2107 according to Giphy, with over 340 million views.


Lighthearted, feel-good, holiday GIF from University of Michigan.


Have you seen any more creative elements you’d like to add to the “nice list” this year? Tweet at us @convergeorg to keep the conversation going. 


VR in EDU: Bringing the Magic to the Masses

Virtual reality and 360° are finally taking the world by storm, providing important and intriguing avenues of learning in EDU. Apps like the New York Times VR and National Geographic make it easy for teachers to inspire students to explore content beyond the classroom.

Tools like augmented reality sign language flashcards are bridging the gap between education accessibility and communication. Most excitingly, these technologies are encouraging students to dream, to explore, to adventure beyond the typical confines of school lecture halls and Kardashian pop culture. How cool is it that climber Alex Honnold, who just completed the most dangerous rope-free solo climb on earth, captured by National Geographic’s VR video crew, is the new hot thing?

When it comes to EDU, the possibilities for VR and AR are endless. The criticism for VR was that it was prohibitively costly to implement, but the sky’s the limit now that interest and popularity for 360° video has taken off. Here are a few ways you can start implementing cost-effective VR and AR ideas in your programs:


Google Cardboard Acceptance Letters

Skidmore College in New York mailed out their acceptance letters this year with a Google Cardboard VR viewer that linked to a novel 360° student life video. It was a fantastic and relatively inexpensive way to add depth to their overall college experience and was the next best thing to an in-person campus tour.

The 360° video combined the traditional campus facility tour with actual student life to showcase the vibrant community admitted students would have access to at Skidmore. It’s a technique that helped prevent melt during Skidmore’s enrollment period.



360° Video Tours on Social

The University of Michigan Ann Arbor did a stellar job on a tour of their survival flight team on Facebook. The tour begins on a helipad and follows the emergency medical team through to take-off. This piece had incredible engagement, reaching prospective medical students and proud Michigan alumni alike.



Students at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design are currently creating a social virtual reality storytelling tool called SocialVR they plan to distribute across campus. The tool allows non-technical users and campus departments to build “personalized immersive experiences” that take the form of everything from lab tours to virtual orientations. VR stories are created out of 360 photos, videos and media hotspots using a simple browser, phone and low-cost camera.



Exploratory VR Resources in the Public Space

Google Arts and Culture released a stunning “Hidden Tour” of the US National Parks on their interactive Arts and Culture 360° platform. In it, virtual learners can take a horseback ride on Bryce Canyon’s breathtaking Navajo Loop, walk through the lava tubes of Hawaii’s volcanoes, and much more.

The Google Arts & Culture platform partners with over 1200 leading museums and archives to bring a wealth of 360° cultural and educational experiences to teachers and students. This is a great choose-your-own-adventure resource for art and history educators.



The Franklin Institute Virtual Reality Museum in Philadelphia commissioned a couple of spaces dedicated entirely to immersive virtual reality, “encountering a blue whale [and] touring the human body.” These immersive experiences are rendered in striking detail and are also available for learners across the globe via the Franklin Institute app. Through the app, virtual visitors can explore incredible, hi-res 360 exhibits such the ocean and Mars without leaving their homes.



Virtual Reality Classrooms

All Things Media (ATM), an immersive solutions company based in northern New Jersey, has developed a useful VR portal that connects students and lecturers from all over the globe in one virtual classroom. In this classroom, student and teacher avatars can walk in and around larger-than-life 3D graphics of the human heart or ancient Greek cities. CEO Robert Spierenburg says the classroom can be used to enhance distance learning for medical schools, architecture programs, history classes and industry conferences. ATM’s VR products are used by clients like McGraw-Hill and Mercedes-Benz.



Finally, the UM3D virtual reality lab at the University of Michigan pushes the envelope in medical imaging technology, allowing researchers to paint a more detailed and interactive picture of their anatomical subjects. Pain researcher Alexandre DaSilva used a colorful, 3D brain at the UM3D lab to study opioid activation during a patient’s migraine attack. DaSilva used VR to study “how our brains make their own pain-killing chemicals during a migraine attack.” The 3D brain allows DaSilva to splice and perceive different colors on PET (positron emission tomography) scan that corresponded to chemical processes happening during the migraine attack.



VR and AR can be used as great motivators for learning and give higher education institutions a competitive edge over others. What tools have you used to start breaking into the VR/AR space? We’d love to hear about them.

How to Build Brand Advocacy in Higher Ed


Today’s prospective students hail from a noisy milieu of social chatter, incentivized influencers and bold brands. They’re Digital Natives—but to them, digital is just life. Growing up in the limelight of Insta-fame and 10-second stories, they’ve become extremely savvy with the information they share or keep, and they’re seasoned skeptics when it comes to brands vying for their attention.

The good news is that Digital Natives are still eager to hit the books, as undergraduate university enrollment is steadily increasing. They view careers as a temporary, but nonetheless critical, way to build communities and impact the world. The best way to get attention from them? Get online and focus your enrollment efforts on cultivating honest, passionate brand advocacy – the kind that tugs on the heartstrings. Make them feel part of your story.

Strong alumni are your best friends who are always looking for ways to connect. Reward them. Identify the ones working in your target regions and industries, and make sure they know your communication lines are always open. Throw in some non-traditional alumni to inspire students to think big. Initiate novel, yet nostalgic events and social campaigns that evoke a strong bond with your campus. Most importantly, find opportunities to connect alumni to your prospects.


Case Study: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, my alma mater, has a track record of brilliance when it comes to making students feel like part of a strong family. We’re smart yet laid-back, ambitious but with a humble grounding. We’re big-picture innovators and we value a well-rounded education as much as we love a great party.

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Prospective MBA students and alumni at an Illinois MBA retreat.


The ILLINOIS MBA does a fantastic job of connecting prospective students with their end goal – a management position in a top U.S. financial market – while cultivating a strong alumni family. Abdul Mahdi, Director of MBA Programs, turned a retreat traditionally reserved for current students into an opportunity to connect the dots between prospects, students and alumni.

“We thought to ourselves, ‘How can we use that event to bring everybody together?’” said Mahdi. “We needed to make alums feel like they were important and incentivize them to stay on.”

The mansion retreat included TEDx-style talks from leading alumni from diverse industries, as well as a business case exercise where prospects, students and alumni collaborated and learned from their diverse leadership styles. By the time cocktail hour came around, strong connections had been forged and meaningful conversations could be had. Through this and similar events, alumni are quickly developed into fierce advocates for the ILLINOIS brand.


Case Study: University of Florida

Brand advocacy starts the moment you accept a student. The more memorable experiences your program can forge for students on campus, the more they will remember to plug you to their networks in the future. Experiences don’t need to be expensive or elaborate. The key is that going social can amplify any brand experience.

[Tweet “Brand advocacy starts the moment you accept a student.”]

University of Florida

National Coffee Day adapted to the University of Florida.


The University of Florida does a great job of this on their Instagram. For National Coffee Day, the University of Florida partnered with their sister-gram UF Photography to take photos of students inside a coffee mug on the main campus plaza. These photos were then tagged and shared all over social media.


Case Study: Mercyhurst University

Mercyhurst University

Mercyhurst University’s “Carpe Diem” #GreenEnvelope acceptance frames in action on Instagram.


In designing their acceptance letters in just the right way, Mercyhurst University took full advantage of their newly minted students. Students were encouraged to pose with a cut-out “Carpe Diem” acceptance frame and share the hashtag #GreenEnvelope with their followers. This type of simple, yet effective campaign helps develop brand pride and advocacy from the very beginning.


Case Study: University of Michigan Ann Arbor

University of Michigan Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan’s “Vending Maize and Blue” social vending machine.


Finally, the University of Michigan took social sharing to the next level by installing a social vending machine on campus during orientation, where students were prompted to tweet about the university with specific hashtags in exchange for exciting school-branded gifts such as tickets to home games, gift cards to the college bookstore and branded clothing. The interactive experience merged digital tech with physical space while elevating the school’s coolness factor on various social channels.

“We are challenged to bring something new and creative to campus each year,” said Yasin Id-Deen, Social Media Manager at the University of Michigan. “For a month, we had a social vending machine on campus and people were loving it. We had constant lines everywhere we put it, and we ‘sold out’ three or four times. It was a good way to partner not only with the campus structure, but also the community within the campus.”


Turn advocacy into influence.

A compelling story can yield great results, not just with your advocates, but with far-reaching influencers. High-traffic blogs, industry-specific media outlets, social influencers and general press contacts will be more likely to feature your program in their posts if you show your story can potentially impact millions of students, or at least turn a few into unparalleled success stories.

Get a grip on your brand advocacy campaigns by examining the four “R’s” of student decision-making as specifically as possible before putting your creative ideas into action:

  1. Resource – Do you have the best library system in the world? Do you provide international immersion opportunities? Do you offer alternative teaching methods or online learning? Do you offer state-of-the-art maker facilities? What are the resources students can find uniquely at your school?
  2. Reputation – Does your program produce world-renowned research? Does it provide well-rounded liberal arts education? A small class size? Who are the influential global leaders who have graduated from your program? Where does a particular student fit in your eco-system?
  3. Risk – What does a student give up by going to school? What are his/her opportunity costs? Why spend time at your academic program versus a vocational training school elsewhere? How do you justify the investment a student makes in you?
  4. Reward – How is your curriculum structured? Can a student obtain more than one degree simultaneously by going through your program? What mentorship or career services do you provide? What are the financial and intellectual benefits of choosing your school?

Want to discuss brand advocacy in more detail? Have cool ideas for engaging alumni and influencers? Contact us to share your experiences. We would love to hear your story.