Crafting the Campaign and Materials Needed for a University Event

“Student entrepreneurship” is popular to the point of cliche. How do universities put their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting students who want to start businesses? One way is through events like Startup Week: a week-long event that showcases entrepreneurship, providing opportunities for mentoring, investor relations, and flat-out winning money to start businesses.

Startup Week came to us with a complex set of needs, including making a splash on campus and capturing a large enough audience to justify big-name speakers and significant awards. To add to the challenge, the event has distinct audiences: students who have started businesses and want mentorship/investment, students who are considering how to get started, and the alumni/investors/entrepreneurs who are on the receiving end of these student relationships. From the beginning, we knew making this event successful would involve a detailed campaign plan, with out-of-the-box thinking about how to stand out to undergrads. We also knew that a digital presence was crucially important, and of course, brand assets that were not only spot-on but also capable of attracting attention.

Project Goals

1

Cross-platform campaign planning

Startup Week knew that they had to focus on attendance: how would they get people to the event? They came to Rowland for detailed campaign support to spread the news.

2

Branded print and digital assets

With such a broad set of audiences, they needed a brand that told a clear story. The brand needed to be applicable across an enormous range of applications and able to be refreshed each year.

3

Digital presence

Of course, an event aimed at undergraduates needed a digital presence. Not just a website, their digital presence included geo-targeted ads, social campaigns, and a sophisticated set of outreach methods.

4

Herding cats

This event wasn’t run by a large group, it was run by a small office and an army of student volunteers. They relied on us not only to plan the campaign but to plan logistical details like “which group would hang which signs in which buildings.” Attention to detail counts when executing an event like this one.

5

Annual updates

Startup Week relies on an updated theme each year to keep the event fresh, provide new topical material, and pivot with trending interests. The brand had to accommodate these new themes–and still minimize reprinting materials.

Discovery

To get to know Startup Week and its audiences, we learned about the entrepreneurship community at the university and in town. We learned how to reach students: what do they pay attention to? why do they attend events–or not? Just as importantly, we helped the team sharpen their event’s purpose and goals. Each year, we repeat this effort on a smaller scale to define and implement a theme that keeps the event fresh and relevant. And, of course, we got to learn even more about university guidelines for student groups (no free pizza at club meetings?!) and on-campus advertising. It’s a complicated set of constraints to navigate, and we were with the Startup Group team the whole way.

Strategy

Ultimately, we landed on a brand and campaign strategy that balanced impact and practicality. We planned outreach to students that met them where they live: literally, with signage and branded cookies in the dining commons, and figuratively, with highly targeted digital advertising. We also created a strategic approach to campus signage, in which some signs are only brand level (and can be reused year after year) while others include dates and annual themes and only last for one event. This helped maximize impact while keeping year-over-year costs low and reducing waste. Yay!

Design

We know how to design a logo, and we know how to consider what it will look like in a variety of contexts. Usually, that means “websites” and “print materials.” Of course, Startup Week needed both, but their logo also had to work on signs, coffee sleeves, cookies, and even buses. Each year this event brings a new crop of awesome design challenges. We’re proud to have created a brand identity that stands up so well, and each year we look forward to the challenge of implementing a new theme in some unique contexts.

Development

The Startup Week website was tricky to plan and execute. For one week a year, it’s a heavily trafficked hub for information: where’s the next event, and who’s speaking tomorrow. For the rest of the year, it’s a repository of information for potential sponsors, speakers, and PR. We created an agile solution that lets the Startup Week team control the website quickly and easily so that it never feels stale and always gives timely information.

2018 CP2 Bracket Award

Category: Trade Show/Experiential/Events

Some university campuses are bigger than others, and University Park at Penn State is certainly up there. On a campus so large it is difficult to stand out, especially while adhering to brand guidelines, brainstorming engaging signage, that adhered to brand guidelines is no small feat. Couple that with only certain designated areas for signage, you have a tough situation. Through some creativity and pushing a boundary or two, our team was able to make this art event pop that other events had not been able to do.

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