By being bold, innovative and inclusive, the Unitec marketing team, led until recently by Jeanette Paine, has played a major role in the institution’s marketing-led transformation over the past three years.
With the development of an overall brand strategy, a full corporate identity makeover and the release of the risky, innovative and highly awarded ‘Change Starts Here’ documentary ad campaign in 2011, Unitec had blazed a trail through the tertiary education sector and helped to change perceptions of the institution among potential students, parents and stakeholders. But in 2012, it was time to put the spotlight back on a cornerstone of Unitec’s offering: the Faculty of Technology and Built Environment.
Unitec, New Zealand’s largest institute of technology, has provided the country with high volumes of highly skilled and work-ready engineers and tradespeople across a wide range of disciplines for many years. But despite this, its Faculty of Trades and Built Environment had been largely absent from Unitec’s marketing for much of the past decade, aside from a series of tactical campaigns to fill gaps in student numbers. This was a consequence of Unitec’s unsuccessful bid to be granted university status, as its core programmes were seen as incompatible with this goal and as such were downplayed.
‘Change Starts Here’, which was launched in early 2011 and followed three students for a full year, was its first brand campaign in more than a decade and was designed to showcase Unitec’s unique, industry-focused “real world learning”. Unfortunately, no suitable candidates from the trades area came forward to audition, so while it was hugely successful for the overall organisation, the campaign did little for the profile or morale of the Faculty of Trades and Built Environment.
Research showed the general perception of the trade sector was undervalued. It wasn’t seen as a skilled or rewarding career choice and it wasn’t clear that a course in trades at Unitec would provide skills that were in high demand due to the Christchurch rebuild and increased urban development in Auckland, or give them an opportunity to be involved in a diverse range of high profile projects.
One major issue was that the faculty encompasses the institute’s widest range of courses, including the traditional ‘blue-collar trades’ like carpentry, plumbing, electrical, drain laying, automotive mechanics and boatbuilding. But Unitec also offers highly regarded degree courses in civil engineering, construction management, surveying and property development. The diversity of the term ‘trades’ made targeting challenging. And this required a powerful overarching brand message that would resonate with all audiences across that spectrum. Add in competing campaigns from AUT, MIT and the Open Polytechnic all cluttering the airwaves, and Unitec had plenty of hurdles to overcome.
Just as it did with ‘Change Starts Here’, Unitec wanted to show the truth: that a trades qualification offered a rewarding career with good financial prospects and a great lifestyle. This drove the creative solution of presenting former students as role models in an aspirational way and the strategy was summed up by the slogan: ‘We make the people who make it’.
A dedicated marketing account manager was assigned to work with faculty staff and graduate talent (and their employers) to ensure it could select from as wide a range as possible. This was important as it needed to reflect gender and ethnicity, as well as projects that could highlight the range of trades and construction qualifications.
Auckland itself was used as a communications medium, and the campaign aimed to capture and heighten the sense of optimism and progress evident in the city since the Rugby World Cup by focusing on major landmarks and infrastructure projects, such as the new ASB development, The Auckland Art Gallery, the Newmarket Viaduct and Britomart.
For the launch TVC it worked with acclaimed director Andy Morton to create a contemporary take on the city. It showed the grime as well as the gloss. And this honest approach was very different to any other ad on TV, let alone ads for educational institutions (Mayor Len Brown is on record saying it’s the best ad for Auckland he’s ever seen).
Production values matter to the younger target audience. So it borrowed stylistically from the world of music videos and film to create an exciting portrayal of the lives of its former students. The campaign spread across many different touch points using outdoor executions as ‘plaques’ to credit the city to the Unitec graduates who built it. These included billboards, Adshels and even pavement stencils all located around the landmark buildings that were being showcased. And for the first time in New Zealand, it created a GPS-triggered series of videos to play in Auckland’s Link Buses that were initiated when the bus went by a building that was built by Unitec graduates. It also built a bus shelter takeover that incorporated upcoming Auckland rapper Loui The Zu’s music track, which was featured on the ad and made available as a free download.
It also designed the ‘Made It Map’, a digital app that encouraged anyone who had worked on a construction to digitally tag and credit themselves on a map of Auckland—and the world. The app was opened up to anyone in the sector, despite their institute of education, and it has become an ongoing engagement piece that extended the campaign long after it finished.
The campaign launched in September 2012, and ran through until February 2013. It was supported by a coordinated PR campaign that operated on two levels. 1) A more “traditional” push designed to reach parents, advisors and business leaders that highlighted Unitec’s key role in the sector. And 2) to deepen the connection with potential students, innovative editorial partnerships with key youth channels U Live and George FM were formed (including the construction of a mobile DJ booth). This amplified the above the line messaging and brought the campaign to life over the summer, with a strong presence at events and festivals.
‘We Make The People Who Make It’ increased brand awareness among its target market, became an effective differentiator for the Unitec brand as a whole, won a host of awards and engendered pride in academic staff. A campaign launch event on campus was attended by around 200 faculty staff and industry. At the event, iPads were supplied so staff and industry partners could upload their projects onto the ‘Made it Map’. PR activity reached 1.7 million people; a campaign micro-site hosted 35,688 unique visitors, clocked 64,280 page views and saw 456 music downloads of the campaign theme music; the TVC was viewed 312,206 times on YouTube (93 percent through paid advertising); 309 markers were placed on the Made It Map; and Unitec’s Twitter and Facebook followings increased by 31 percent and 154 percent respectively after the launch of the campaign.
Consideration for Unitec increased from 21 percent in December 2011 to 25 percent in December 2012 and the campaign drove a 39 percent increase in awareness of trades courses at Unitec. All this interest led to a 12.5 percent increase in trades enrolments on the previous year and plenty of industry accolades, with the campaign winning a silver Axis for the Link bus GPS activation and the Best in Show award at the CAANZ Media Awards.
And, importantly, while it helped itself, it also achieved its wider goal of helping to change perceptions of an entire industry.