Monthly Archives

April 2015

Being smart about college marketing

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In the U.S. alone, there are thousands of colleges, universities and trade schools. The exact number depends on many factors. Add to that, the number of educational institutions around the world, and one starts to wonder how on earth a prospective student decides where he or she will go for higher education.

In the digital age, it seems there are no boundaries for those dreaming about college. The Internet makes the task of researching any college in any corner of the globe a virtual breeze – a task that was once only possible by making endless long-distance phone calls and requesting packets of information via snail mail.

Schools large and small, specializing in both mainstream and niche programs and degrees will come up by the hundreds in a Google search. Just click, and all the information you need will be right there.

College of What?

How then, if you happen to be in charge of marketing your school or program to new students, do you cut through the clutter to get them to notice you?

I have a coworker whose daughter is currently considering her choices for college. She receives new communications every day from colleges pining for her attention. When I asked how she decides which ones to even look at, my coworker said “she only opens the ones she’s heard of”.

According to, schools are trying all sorts of new tricks be “heard of”. Thanks to technology developments and social media, schools are trying, and having success, with things like interactive and virtual tours, short films and viral videos, Groupon Promotions, podcasts, text marketing, hosting chat groups, mobile websites and apps, and business partnerships.

Cleveland State University is placing online ads and videos on streaming radio sites. Their vice president of marketing cites research showing that 70 percent of teenagers listen to streaming radio, 25 percent are mobile-only online users and 90 percent watch online videos.

With their online ads, CSU was able to test messaging and learned that an ad that mentioned the amount of savings a student could earn under its freshman scholarship program was more effective than stating the savings percent. This allowed them to adjust their ads on the fly and get the most marketing bang for their buck.

The University of Akron is also using videos to promote their school, along with hiring a firm to take over the task of responding to applications and scholarship offers in a timely manner.

Why? Because consumers today expect quick and effective communications from businesses—especially those that they’ll potentially be spending tens of thousands of dollars with. It only makes sense to give any prospect the personal attention they deserve.

Getting past the gatekeeper

While attracting the attention of those easily-distracted teenagers is an important goal in college marketing, be sure you’re speaking to their parents too. Parents attention spans will be longer and they’ll be asking questions their kids haven’t thought of or may not be concerned about. After all, it’s parents that are most-likely footing the bill for all or part of the expenses.

Traditional mass marketing like billboards and print ads might work for some parents, but many parents today, especially those of millennials, are just as internet savvy as their kids. So while it’s okay to use some of the same tactics to reach them, it’s important to tailor the content to them by including information about campus health and safety, school ranking and costs they will face.

The same, but different

So, what is the difference between college marketing and any other marketing? In broad terms, not a lot. Find your audience. Communicate the features and benefits of your product. Get them to take action. And follow through on your promises to keep them happy. But this is not a widget—it’s one of the most important decisions a family will ever make. The challenge of getting the right students enrolled in your school or program is great, but the reward for both of you will be even greater.

Increasing Need for Student Lending Creates Opportunities

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Nearly 21 million Americans attend college each year. For students and families contemplating how much they’ll have to pay for a college education, it can feel like they’re chasing an impossible dream. College costs have risen much faster than average inflation for decades.

According to Gordon Wadsworth, author of The College Trap, college tuition that cost $10,000 in 1986 would now cost more than $21,500 – if the cost of education had increased as much as the average inflation rate. Instead, the actual cost of that tuition is now $59,800, more than 2½ times the rate of inflation.

In spite of a rise in federal student aid, including tax credits and deductions, financial aid programs still come up short in meeting the tuition bill each semester. Nearly two-thirds of undergraduates now receive some sort of grant aid, and student loan borrowing is on the upswing.

Rather than using savings or putting their homes on the line with home equity financing, many families are turning to alternative or private student loans to help pay the cost. The private/ alternative loan financing market is the fastest growing source of student financial aid today, according to college resource guide

The state of student lending

  • Close to 12 million college students, about 60 percent, borrow to help cover costs. (Chronical of Higher Education)
  • There are approximately 40 million Americans with at least one outstanding student loan, up from 29 million in 2008. (Experian and CNN Money)
  • A steadily increasing share of younger people are taking out student loans. In 2004, 27 percent of 25-year-olds had student debt; by 2012, that had increased to about 43 percent. (The Financial Brand)

Look on the bright side

Beyond the doom-and-gloom headlines that dwell on rising student debt and delinquency, there is a significant opportunity for financial institutions in the private student loan space. As college costs continue to rise, so does the need for reasonable funding options.

According to, a resource for financial aid information, business for private student loans is expected to see annual growth at 25 percent, overtaking the government’s share of lending by 2025. Current market dynamics favor this growth, and Forbes magazine pegs the potential opportunity for school loans and refinancing programs represent at as much as $120+ billion per year with potential annual profits of $12-13 billion per year.



Agency News: Visit with the Students at U of M, CLAgency

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Scott Meyer, Chief Advancement Officer at the U of M College of Liberal Arts, recently started a new endeavor at the CLA where he’s enlisted current Liberal Arts students to be a part of his internal student agency. His mission is to change the way people talk about Liberal Arts degrees and re brand the college as a whole. A few of us, at d.trio, got involved with the project when we were asked to participate on the CLAgency advisory board, consisting a group of tenured professionals in the advertising and marketing industry.

Last week, Scott asked that I come in and speak to the student agency about our client at CLA admissions and our current project. D.trio is in the process of completing new admissions materials and collateral for CLA and my presentation focused on our work thus far and on the creative process as a whole from an account perspective. The students, though all in the College of Liberal Arts, come from very different backgrounds and areas of study. They were smart, insightful and we got some great feedback on our pieces, it was like a free focus group, which illustrates the genius of Scott’s student agency. I enjoyed speaking with the students at CLAgency and can’t wait to see the positive impact they will provide the university. More to come on our work with CLAgency and the admissions collateral!


Trending Now: Ten Years of YouTube

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It’s hard to believe that YouTube was started over a decade ago! Did you know that there is an estimated 300 hours of video uploaded every minute? Out of the millions of videos to choose from, these were some of d.trio marketing groups favorites:




Beth has two:





And, if you’ve ever wondered what the first video uploaded to YouTube was:

We’ve come a long way. What’s your favorite video?

Featured Work: Thrivent Federal Credit Union Student Lending Campaign

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For the past year, Thrivent Federal Credit Union has been testing direct mail initiatives targeting students and their parents who are prepping to pay for college. In 2015, we opted for a larger multi-touch campaign that will include four direct mail pieces, online infographics and corresponding social media ads featured on Facebook and Twitter. d.trio developed Student Lending brand standards that TFCU uses on all college loan communication; opting for playful fonts, imagery that is student and college inspired and a more modern voice and overall tone.


Management Perspective – Liberal Arts

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The age-old debate is raging louder than ever. Should higher education graduates come out of school with a prescribed set of skills (technical or business specific) or a broad based education such as a liberal arts degree? This is a tough call because education is expensive and nobody wants to waste money on something that won’t bring a return on investment, right?

As a graduate of Carleton College and the recipient of a liberal arts education, you might guess I’m biased, but the reality is, the only thing that matters is what the student gets out of their education – and there isn’t just one right way to be successful. No degree will teach someone everything they need to know coming out of school. However, there are some things that will set a first time job seeker apart:

Can they think for themselves? Can they write well and express their ideas verbally? Can they evaluate and solve problems? Are they interested in continuing to learn, to excel at the job and move up?

Here, at d.trio, we have graduates from both sides – focused and broad-based majors – from business and psychology degrees, to liberal arts, communications and more. The thing they have in common is a 4-year degree. The variety of skill sets makes us stronger. You don’t have to have a marketing degree to work at d.trio, but you do have to be willing to learn and think like a marketer. And we all do.


I hate marketing. And that makes me a better marketer.

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I’ve been a graphic designer, art director, and copywriter for a good twenty years and each year my hatred for marketing seems to grow. Okay, to be completely truthful, I don’t hate ALL of it—just most of it. Bad marketing makes me angry. It’s obnoxious, annoying, offensive, boring, and downright insulting to my brain cells. I hate it so much that I listen to CDs in order to avoid radio spots. I race to the bathroom when a TV commercial comes on. And I actually watch the Super Bowl for the game, not the ads.

Sometimes I wonder why I don’t become a plumber instead.

I guess it’s because deep down I believe in the potential of marketing. Marketing helps businesses grow. It builds awareness for lots of good causes, great products, and other things that people benefit from. Not only that, but when done artfully and thoughtfully, an ad or direct mail piece can be a thing of beauty, even rising to the level of—dare I say it—actual art.

Because for every turd out there, there’s also the opportunity to do something groundbreaking. Something meaningful. Useful. Entertaining. Surprising. And brilliant. Something that doesn’t merely add clutter to the world, but actually enriches it. Yes, it’s possible to create marketing that moves people, inspires them, even changes their lives. The potential is always there. And that’s part of the thrill and the challenge of what we do every day.

They say the average person is bombarded with approximately 2,000 marketing messages every day. That’s 2,000 opportunities for us marketers to do something better—to educate people, make them laugh, offer them something in a fresh way.

At least, that’s the goal. And the fact that all the bad stuff makes me so angry fuels that goal even more.

Because part of me still believes that if done well—by maintaining respect for your audience, holding onto high standards, and fighting for what you believe in—marketing can indeed help make the world a better place.

In the meantime, if any plumbers out there need a logo design, give me a call.

Travel UX

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I just returned from some business travel and once again was struck by the lack of “User Experience” that is applied within the airline industry.

Boarding process. This is just barely managed chaos (except for Southwest Airlines, which may have it figured out). Just a jammed-up cattle call and a rush for overhead bin space. And the little three-foot strip of red carpet that is supposed to make you feel special? C’mon. Oh yeah, and what sense does it make to board First Class early, and then have a flight attendant jam up the aisle serving drinks while everyone else tries pass through to the rest of the seats? Just “plane” dumb.

Useless Instructions. Most everyone totally ignores the ubiquitous pleas to place smaller items under the seat in front of you. “We have a very full flight today, blah, blah, blah”. And, do we really still need instructions on how to operate a seat belt?

Gate Announcements. OK, so this is information critical to every flier. But nearly every PA system is unintelligible and the voices sound a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Drink Carts. Take forever. Smash elbows in aisle seats. Send ice shards all over and block access to restrooms. Brilliant.

Rental Car Counters. A completely archaic, broken process. They’ve got the return part pretty well nailed, but getting the keys? Kill me now. Oh, and let’s have a single agent working the counter during busiest times.

Airport Road and Terminal Signage. Apparently designed to confuse. Mission accomplished. Atlanta’s airport is the poster child for bad signage. Phoenix is a close second. I can’t imagine what people do who don’t have English as a first language.

In-Airport Restaurants. Service is almost universally slow and inattentive. Not to worry, nobody has anywhere to go or anything. You are just a captive audience at their mercy.

Outlets. Travelers are often seen wandering gate areas looking for the rare and usually hidden electrical outlet to recharge their devices. Look for people lying on the floor like crash survivors with a cord trailing from their bodies to said outlet. It’s a sad sight.

That’s it for my rant. The next presidential candidate should run on a platform to fix this stuff. He or she would win in a landslide.

Working From Home – Surprising Facts and Helpful Tips

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Here at d.trio, we are fortunate to have the ability to work remotely when necessary. We have an excellent array of technology tools that allow us to service our clients without skipping a beat. In fact, many of our clients work from home part-time or full-time.

The marketing services industry is not alone in this trend. According to a 2013 Forbes article, 30 million Americans work from home at least once a week and that number is expected to increase by 63% over the next five years. Working from home saves both employers and employees money. Employers report increased productivity and employees report increased job satisfaction.   For additional facts, check out the great infographic at the end of this post on The Benefits of Employee Telecommuting.

How do we ensure that we are contributing to those positive outcomes and working productively from our home office? Here are some simple tips suggested by Entrepreneur magazine:

  1. Set boundaries – avoid personal calls or household tasks during the workday.
  2. Take a lunch break – use this downtime to recharge and refocus.
  3. Dress for the job – wear work attire to provide a separation between work time and normal at home time.
  4. Have a routine – creating a work routine is important so that you stay on task.
  5. Remove distractions – keep the TV off and surround yourself with work-related things. If possible, dedicate a separate work area. Some experts further suggest listening to music without words and avoid sitting directly in front of a window.

Working from home is not for everyone. But if you enjoy it, give these tips a try.

benefits of employee telecommuting infographic
Via: BOLT Insurance, February, 2103, April 2015



Why I want an Apple Watch.

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Like most of my life, it really comes down to one thing. Marketing.

Not just the marketing I’ve seen for the Apple Watch itself. All of which makes it look like the cleanest, slickest, biggest (have you noticed how HUGE they make it look. Targeting the folks with bad eyesight over the folks with small wrists must work), coolest watch ever made.

Not even the marketing of Apple itself who’s historical record of advertising and marketing is one of ideas that changed everything. One of the first companies to see graphic design and maybe especially, typography, as an important element in everything they designed, from the systems themselves to the manuals that shipped with them to the ads that talked about them. I’m a graphic designer for a living, I have a job because Apple made design cool.

No, it comes down to the marketing of my generation. I was turned on to sci-fi early by being able to bring Chewbacca to my house via action figure and told that by the time I was old enough to drive the cars would FLY. (LIARS! Damn liars). I want to be able to talk into my wrist and have something happen. I want to be able to read email on this watch because that is a short, short step from being able to read it on my arm.

The practical side of me says “but it doesn’t really do anything yet”, and “you have much better ways to spend $400”, and “you don’t even wear a watch!”. And yet, deep down in that quivery spot in the bottom of my heart, I want it. The deep, deep spot in my heart where I fell in love the first time the Mac Classic smiled at me. That’s what marketing can do. It can make you love things you never knew you needed.