Since 2003, Lakehead has run yearly campaigns in the GTA and Southern Ontario. The most memorable of the campaigns have been YaleShmale, which won Bronze in the 2006 Prix d’Excellence national competition of the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE), along with worldwide attention, and Do Something, which won Gold in the same competition for 2007. Although no research was undertaken showing a direct connection between the campaign and the increase in applications, the year YaleShmale ran has been the only year in Lakehead’s history where acceptances were up significantly (almost 13%). That year the overall system increase in undergraduate applications was 5% while Lakehead was up by 8%.
The next five to ten years will be even more challenging for Lakehead as universities battle for share of market. Today almost all universities spend marketing dollars as an investment in their future viability. It is crucial that the Lakehead voice is heard above the din, and to do this the next generation of institutional marketing will focus on strategic brand building.
The Lakehead brand is challenging to delineate and convey because the University has evolved from a regional technical institute to a comprehensive institution with nine faculties and a strong research focus. Lakehead prides itself in many firsts and onlys, including: the first medical school in Canada in over 30 years (West Campus); the only university in Ontario offering an undergraduate program in Forestry; for years the only university in Canada offering accredited post-diploma college transfer programs in Engineering; one of the few universities to offer a number of Aboriginal access programs; and the only Canadian university with a laboratory accredited for Forensic Human Identification. Lakehead is also the only Canadian university designated by Maclean’s as number one in the Value Added category for five years. That the institution competes well in all its fields of discipline but does not attach its brand to a singular or specialty discipline, by design, presents a different kind of marketing challenge.
How do you effectively brand such an institution? A compelling way to define the Lakehead brand and brand proposition is through Lakehead’s “products.” Our students and alumni are the outcome of the University’s “production process.” Although human beings of course are not assembly line products, the student experience and success after graduation speak best to the institutional brand. And who best contributes to the development of the brand? Primarily the teachers and researchers who set the standards for quality education. But all of us who contribute to the students’ life on campus create the University brand and directly or indirectly contribute to student success!
Starting fall 2009, Lakehead will showcase a few alumni, students, professors, and researchers who are shining examples of Brand Lakehead. The ads speak to the quality of a Lakehead education and how it contributed to the professional success of each person featured. The creative strategy revolves around a Lakehead strength of encouraging independent critical thinking in the context of a smaller institution where there is greater interaction between student and professor. The ads are expected to appeal to independent-type university bound students (and their parents). Shown in this article are creative concepts that are part of the Alumni series running this fall. The rest of the series will be developed in phases and will run as part of the annual advertising campaign over the next few years.
Eleanor S. Abaya is Lakehead University's
Director of Communications