Drake University’s D+ Campaign Gets Them Noticed

Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa recently unveiled a new marketing campaign, based around a visual of a “D+.” The campaign intended to focus on the perceived advantages of a Drake University education, but some critics have argued that it puts the school in a bad light.

Drake University administrators have defended the campaign, saying that even though some adults question the use of the term “D+,” the campaign tested well with the target audience of high school juniors and seniors who are deciding where to go to college – this is a “buzz” campaign gone right.

Drake University used creativity to stand out from the crowd in generating brand awareness, and it has translated into increased interest from prospective students: campus visits are up by 22 percent, and admissions inquiries are up by 63 percent.

This story illustrates a valuable point: your marketing messages cannot please everyone! In fact, some of the most effective marketing messages actually disappoint or discourage some people – but that’s OK, as long as you’re speaking effectively to the audiences that matter most to your business.

Taking a “Risk” Can Help You Break Through the Clutter

In the case of Drake University, they’re trying to reach an audience of high school students who get good grades and are interested in attending a private college. Younger people today tend to appreciate irony and sarcasm, and they have a sophisticated understanding of advertising – they’re able to see something like “D+” attached to a university’s marketing campaign and know not to take it literally.

Most higher education marketing looks and sounds the same – cameras panning across green, leafy campuses, students peering into microscopes and swirling flasks of chemicals, earnest classroom discussions. Most universities are too risk-averse in their marketing messages, and as a result, they never break through the clutter.

Kudos to Drake University for understanding its target audience and having the guts to speak directly to them with a provocative (and attention-getting) marketing message. How many other colleges and universities can say the same?

Part Two: Now that you got their attention – Make sure to Close the Sale

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