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Branding Campaign Hits Its Stride

Boston public television viewers got an eyeful of WPI in late August when 47 students and members of the faculty and administration volunteered on a Tuesday evening to help WGBH during its pledge drive. The telephone brigade received nearly 400 pledges and raised awareness of WPI among consumers who already support educational programming.

If you think you’ve been hearing more about WPI lately, you’re right. If you tuned in anywhere in central New England this fall, you likely caught sight of the WPI television commercial. And drivers on Institute Road are now greeted by sleek new campus signs planted on the hillsides. These are just two of the noticeable benchmarks of the university’s marketing campaign, now in its second year.

“Anecdotally, we know there’s a growing buzz about WPI,” says George Flett, associate vice president of marketing. “But even better, the numbers prove it. For instance, awareness of WPI among parents of prospective students in Hartford and New Haven, Conn., has jumped nearly 20 percent.”

Many of the program’s early components reach out to parents and others who influence students currently shopping for colleges. In addition to the flight of TV commercials that recently ran in the Boston, Hartford and New Haven markets, WPI launched a banner ad on a key national college Web site and placed a full-page ad in U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges 2004, the most widely used college guidebook. These ads coincided with WPI’s rating of No. 55 overall on U.S. News’ all-important annual list of top national universities. “We designed the ads to achieve greater national awareness by focusing on the success of our students, with a goal of driving readers to our admissions Web site,” explains Flett.

Closer to home, the new campus signs are a striking symbol of change. Trimmed in brushed aluminum and mounted on granite—a blend of modern materials and traditional stone, like that found across campus—the bright crimson signs bear the redesigned logo. In late August it was neck and neck: who would arrive first—the new students or the new signs? The Chelmsford granite for the sign bases was delayed because it was a small custom order. With just hours to spare, the grounds crew mounted the new signs in time for the start of the school year.

The all-new admissions Web site, that is. Tara Myers, director of e-marketing at WPI, the Web Development Office, and members of the Office of Admissions worked with the internationally acclaimed New York-based design firm EuroRSCG Circle to revamp the university’s undergraduate admissions portal to be more student-friendly. The catch phrase “You are different . . . and being different allows you to make a difference” sets the tone for the site and highlights how a WPI education allows students to make a difference in the world. The site now features live chats, links to videos of WPI’s global project program, and plenty of cross-referencing so visitors don’t lose access to information once they’ve clicked down a particular path.

Also this past summer, WPI’s Venice Project Center became a media darling. The August issue of Wired magazine included a story about the massive floodgate project in Venice, titled “The Lost City of Venice.” Global program manager Fabio Carrera was quoted liberally about WPI’s Venice project center. New England Cable News picked up on the story and interviewed WPI professors and students about the work being done in the threatened Italian city.

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Last modified: Aug 31, 2004, 17:07 EDT
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