Towson’s marketing strategy receives overhaul
If students from this year’s graduating class were to look back at the postcards, pamphlets and paraphernalia they received from Towson when they first applied, the words “Thinking Outside” would probably be printed on every one of them.
The Class of 2017, and the general community, is receiving a different message, a message more student-focused, rather than citing University accomplishments.
Under the leadership of Josianne Pennington, the interim senior director of marketing and communications, the University has changed its mantra, now operating under the tagline “Great Expectations. Realized.”
“The previous campaign … mainly focused on potential, but now we want potential and current students to relate and include the outside community, but also focus on the internal strengths of the University,” Pennington said. The marketing strategy includes more than a fancy tagline – it has a whole new look, courtesy of Pennington and University President Maravene Loeschke.
Changes to the tagline are a part of an effort to make Towson more appealing to potential students, Pennington said.
“It’s a very deliberate tagline to indicate how strongly we feel about the quality of the school and the culture here,” Pennington said. “Our ads started focusing around the accomplishments of the dance team and the debate teams, for example, but there were so many other successful students around campus we focused on.”
Freshman Maggy Kay said that when she was investigating colleges, she thought that Towson operated a rather passive marketing campaign.
“There were some smaller schools that I felt like they were wooing me,” she said. “When I came here it wasn’t very strong marketing, it was a lot of communication over the Internet. I didn’t get any phone calls or any face-to-face communication.”
Kay also said she didn’t think that the previous marketing team represented Towson well and that she did not grasp Towson’s “atmosphere.”
“A lot of people told me before I came here that it was a large school with a small school feel,” she said. “Before I came here I was a little nervous about that being true, but now I love it. My view of the school then is different from how I view it now, so they could do more to show how the atmosphere here really is.”
Loeschke said when she first came to Towson one year ago, she said she needs to change leadership in the marketing department to forward Towson’s marketing strategy.
“I think by the time I had come here it [the “Thinking Outside” campaign] had run its course,” she said. “It achieved some things, but the message about what Towson is as an institution was lost.”
Loeschke hired Pennington, who offered to meet with anyone in the Office of Marketing and Communications with ideas about how to improve marketing and promotions.
A major change that Pennington’s office implemented quickly was an overhaul of the University website.
“There were people who had ideas to make the website look better, but no one said, ‘Absolutely, go forward,’ and that’s what it took to change the website, and it happened in a little less than six months,” Pennington said. “There was a perception that people couldn’t move forward with the ideas they had.”
In a previous interview with The Towerlight, Director of Digital Strategy Michael Heasley, who developed the new website, said he would continue to make improvements.
“What we’re aiming for is to make it as up to date, easy to use, vibrant and interesting as it possibly can be,” Heasley said in the interview. “Every time someone visits our website we create an impression and millions of people visit our website and millions of impressions are created and we want people to have the best possibly impression of Towson University.”
To provide students a better impression of the University, Pennington said the school is enlisting the help of electronic media and film majors to produce, direct and act in films and commercials that the marketing department produces for the Towson website.
Previously, the University looked to third parties to produce their commercials and hired paid actors to appear in the short films.
Most recently, the EMF department made a piece on the dance department at Towson. That video will be broken up into two 30-second commercials that will be shown on television in the upcoming months.
The marketing department will also be working more closely with each of the colleges, Loeschke said.
“In the past, the marketing had been too disconnected from the colleges themselves, and there would be things run that the colleges didn’t even think were important, so now the colleges are participating in what message is used to represent them,” she said.