Success Means Thinking Like the Recipient

By | August 9, 2011

I just received an email from the Print on Demand Initiative sketching an overview of a highly successful digital print campaign from Loyola University. What struck me about the campaign wasn’t the list, the creative, the messaging, or the offer — all of the things we normally think about when anticipating or evaluating campaign success.

Success was based on something profoundly more simple. There was a problem being faced by arriving students. By understanding what that problem was, it designed a campaign specifically to address those needs.

Marketer, know thy audience.

The challenge was that with over 15,000 students (more than 4,100 residing on campus), move-ins were chaotic. To attempt to ameliorate some of the chaos, the Chicago-based university assigned students specific move-in dates and times. In the past, students were given loose-leaf sheets in a 9″ x 12″ envelope, but it was less than ideal.

To improve the move-in process, the Loyola University’s Department of Residence Life designed a 14-page, personalized “passport” style move-in manual that included

  • Student’s name and residence hall
  • Roommate names, hometowns, email addresses
  • Meal plan information
  • Campus map with key locations & parking pass

“Upon greeting parents at the campus check point, it was easy to flip open to the separate page to point out the next stop on their route from the map and directions,” the case study explained. “In addition, parents and students commented on the fun format and found the information very helpful and concise.” The new move-in manual was a huge success, and according to the write-up, the university has used it two years in a row.

But what what struck me, personally, when I read it was that what made the campaign successful wasn’t any of the physical elements of the campaign — the data, the messaging, or the creative. It was the understanding of the challenges of the students and the development of a system to alleviate those challenges. Loyola University fundamentally understood the experiences of its students and its staff and what needed to be done to fix the problems that arose.

The university knew its audience.

This goal — “Marketer, know thy audience” — is one that gets tossed around a lot, but it is rarely truly achieved. It is also very hard to explain in words or to show as an example. So when I read the case study, it really jumped out at me.

What do we do with this example now that we have it? If you apply that to your own clients, the question that it raises is how well do they really understand what their customers are thinking? What they need? How to solve any problems or pain points they might be experiencing? Or are they just trying to make sales? There is a huge difference between these two approaches, and it can mean the difference between success and mediocrity.

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One thought on “Success Means Thinking Like the Recipient

  1. Diane Toomey

    Heidi,
    of all of the “noise” surrounding marketing with new technology out there, your articles always are my favorites because you distill what works; it is usually the common sense concept, such as “know your audience” as is the case here. Brava!

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