Hit Your Student Recruitment Sweet Spot Using the Creative Curve

Channeling Your Inner Genius: Hit Your Student Recruitment Sweet Spot Using the Creative Curve


“Higher ed is an industry where risk aversion can take over. The best digital marketers will look to ideas from mainstream marketing that are proven, but still novel to higher ed.” – Allen Gannett


We’ve all heard the wrap about higher education being behind other industries in terms of marketing innovation, but how can we capitalize on that notion? It also begs the question, that when it comes to catching lightning in a bottle and exceed your student recruitment goals, where should you channel your best ideas from? Like me, you’re probably thinking that this should be the cornerstone of any higher education marketing strategy discussion.

At Converge 2019, Allen Gannett showed off his impressive effort to apply research, data, and some super catchy pop culture references into his book entitled The Creative Curve, which Forbes said was one of the best books on creativity. And voila… here’s the curve!

The takeaway is good news for all of us, according to Gannett’s research, “the things we view as unexplainable genius often have a genesis of some sort.” He has made a compelling argument that genius is more formulaic then we may have thought. And thanks his efforts, there’s now some light at the end of the tunnel for all of us who strive to channel our inner Einstein.

Gannett offers lots of ideas, but how can we as mere mortals position ourselves ahead of this curve for everyday creative output?

I’d suggest reading the entire book, available on Amazon. To get you started here are a few boiled down principals that Gannett has outlined rolled into Higher Ed speak:


Great creators consume content 20% of their day. The takeaway here is that if you’re in marketing, consume as much content within the sweet spot of the curve as possible. That doesn’t mean just looking at higher education, but keep up on all verticals in terms of trending social, display, radio, and TV spots. Make it fun and re-introduce the content to your colleagues and peers.

The example here is Ted Sarandos who is Chief Content Officer at Netflix. He worked at a video rental store at an early age and watched every single video in the store. Using his movie knowledge, Sarandos became the go to guy for matching the right video with the right person. This positioned him as a value exemplar. A good example in student recruitment might be the admissions rep who has years of experience matching the right student with the right program. I’ve seen those individuals shine in many schools because they are living and breathing the student enrollment journey.


Here you’re looking for ideas within the sweet spot for other verticals, but really the fringe for higher education. These are the new & next strategies you can apply to your plan to get there first and engage your audience for exponential growth. Think Reddit, Twitch, YouTube, Snapchat, Spotify, etc. as marketing channels that haven’t reached their full potential for student recruitment, but are highly productive for the same target audiences in the retail consumer space.

Creative Communities

Gannett points out that contrary to most interpretations, Mozart spent countless hours learning from teachers and he actively sought out numerous collaborators. You should do the same, surround yourself with these key collaborators:

  • Master Teacher
  • Conflicting Collaborator
  • Modern Muse
  • Prominent Promoter


Once you’ve brought to market your program, creative, event, idea, continue to gain feedback and change messaging as your market and audience continue to change. To truly understand Gannett’s curve is to know that every idea will eventually creep into follow-on failure and out of date status. It’s important to constantly be reinventing your approach.

I’ve been enlightened by Allen’s truly inspirational take on finding my inner genius. I wish you luck in your journey, and look forward to consuming your content!

Looking for a master teacher? Converge is ahead of the curve when it comes to what’s new and next in digital marketing. Reach out and let’s share some ideas.

Brian Connelly
Brian Connelly
March 7, 2019