Braden’s team knew they had to make sure Purdue Global stood out as a distinct and undeniable option.
“We said this has to go from undifferentiated product to truly compelling brand, especially if it's worthy of the 150 -year-old Purdue name,” Braden said. “We knew we had to tell the story of who we're for and why it's compelling, along with approval from Purdue University.”
The Purdue Global team partnered with Chicago’s Brandtrust consultancy to look into the primary emotional drivers of their target market.
A wholly different demographic
The Purdue Global team recognized that students enrolling in online or distance learning are a different demographic than those applying for on-campus undergraduate classes. They include 40 million Americans who have some college credit but no degree, are on average 32 years old, and highly diverse. Also, 50% are first-generation Americans, and a third have a military background.
In other words, they have multitudes of life and work experience, but also numerous obligations vying for their time and resources. By discovering exactly what these potential students needed, Pratt said they were able to focus on three key insights:
1. Prospective students want to earn a quality education that they trust, that they're proud of and that employers will respect.
2. They want what they've done, what they've lived and what they've learned to matter, to have value to help them on their path.
3. They believe they’re capable of more, and know that a degree is a stepping stone to new opportunities for them and their family.
“It all starts with knowing our target audience, what drives our students so we can connect with them and engage with them on an emotional level,” Pratt said. “We need to show them that we are providing that value and that benefit.”
Shifting the marketing perspective
Another change the Purdue Global team employed was retooling how it went about budgeting its media mix. Previously, Pratt said, they’d focused on bottom-of-the-funnel pushes. But when it shifted thinking to long-term sustainable growth, the decision was made to move toward full-funnel, brand-building narratives and channels.
“We wanted to have a more holistic perspective and make an emotional connection,” Pratt said. “As we looked at the marketplace, a lot of people are talking about price and flexibility online. Instead, we want them to think of Purdue Global first and feel the best about us.”
By using these core consumer insights and pairing them with Purdue’s name recognition and its wide range of online programs and degrees or certificates, Purdue Global has been able to tell the stories its prospective students need to hear and connect with its network of past, present and future Boilermakers.
“They say brands are best extended or executed externally by those who know them deeply, so getting to know that for us was critical,” Braden said. ”We've been working on that repositioning, giving it a soul, giving it an essence and giving it a value proposition that’s really compelling.”