In August of 2009, Alliant International University hired the University’s first Chief Marketing Officer, Madeleine Wiener. Madeleine was tasked with increasing awareness for the Alliant brand, the parent and “connector” brand for five schools with 6 campuses across California.
By spring of 2010, Madeleine realized she needed help and tasked LeapUp with helping her and her team develop a comprehensive plan to put “Alliant on the map”. The scope of the project included first benchmarking current brand equity associated with the Alliant brand, then building a new corporate identity and messaging strategy for the University and culminated in the relaunch of the brand online at Alliant.edu.
LeapUp Leaps In
In order to ground the new brand positioning and claims in audience-based insights, LeapUp conducted four surveys in the summer of 2010 with prospective students, current students, faculty and staff at the University to evaluate brand equity and brand associations for Alliant.
Based on this research, a new University positioning statement was crafted which anchored the messaging strategy for Alliant in 6 brand claims each of which were then supported by proof points. Working with a University-wide Steering Committee, the CMO and LeapUp shared the research and the new messaging with University leadership then worked with the school’s marketing directors to extend this messaging to Alliant’s five schools so that the Alliant brand claims were integrated throughout the schools messaging strategies.
LeapUp then helped source two graphic design firms to develop a new corporate identity for the University (and associated schools) including a new logo system, brand palette and style guide.
In the fall of 2010, a University-wide team began work on the online relaunch of the Alliant brand at Alliant.edu. LeapUp’s role was project leader for this group and the Alliant.edu relaunch.
One of the first requirements was evaluating the options for content management for the site. The existing site was managed using an out-of-date version of IBM Websphere for its content management system which was technically unstable, contained out of date content and lacked a global navigation. After gathering a complete understanding of user needs, LeapUp conducted an extensive evaluation of content management solutions from simpler open source solutions to enterprise solutions.
LeapUp then conducted additional surveys of Alliant’s prospective and current student constituencies and focus groups were held with alumni and key department heads to identify online content needs, desired navigation, site features and functionality.
LeapUp then created a best practices review of academic websites for Alliant evaluating look and feel styles, navigation, features and functionality.
To expand site usability as well as ease of maintenance for administrators, LeapUp recommended Alliant develop searchable web-based databases to enable University constituencies to sort and display news, faculty profiles, publications throughout the site. A new calendar system was integrated into the site via the new Alliant portal and updatable slideshows and “spotlights” were integrated into school and Alliant page templates so schools at Alliant could showcase faculty achievements and other highlights on an ongoing basis. A new global navigation and search function allowed users to quickly identify and reach site content wherever they navigate to within the site. The new Alliant site launched in the Fall of 2011.
LeapUp search optimized the Alliant site to increase organic search traffic patterns then built pay-per-click and social media advertising campaigns to leverage the new content at Alliant.edu.
The new logo system at Alliant was a winner with faculty, staff and students, raising the consistency with which the University is branded, online and offline.
As the research predicted, top pages attracting traffic such as the Program listings are generating increased visibility for Alliant’s program offerings and students, faculty and staff report ease of navigation and higher levels of satisfaction with the site.
Marketing directors at Alliant embraced the new content management system, updating spotlights, adding to the news database and events calendars and refreshing imagery and adding to site content on an ongoing basis leading to a fresh, current look for the University online. Site management and administration was decentralized within the University, allowing multiple administrators to refresh content vs management under one, overburdened webmaster.
Pay per click campaigns delivered a steady stream of traffic to the site with positive conversion activity and reasonable cost per conversion metrics.
Prospective student conversions increased significantly to the “Request for information” form on the site.