Optimising Nottingham's global reach


By Jon Kirk

The University of Nottingham approached us with a unique set of challenges. In the wake of leadership changes and a full rebrand, they needed to tackle some fierce market competition and changing applicant behaviours. In order to overcome these obstacles, they needed their education brand to become more assertive, more agile, and more consistent – in a way that would resonate with specific global audiences. With some ambitious strategic goals in tow, we had our work cut out for us.

Our first task was to get familiar with the current state of the market and develop an understanding of how Nottingham’s audiences really felt. We started by delving into some brand and social listening research, designed to gauge our audience’s perception and the impact of our work so far. Working together with the Nottingham team, we were then able to set some key objectives and KPIs for future engagement, in line with the University’s 4-year plan.

We delivered this research across 3 target markets – Malaysia, China and the UK.

Specifically, we looked at brand awareness and tracking, brand perception, audience sentiment and ongoing brand awareness tracking. It was the first time Nottingham had actively researched their audience’s understanding of their attributes and brand appeal, and the result was enlightening. The findings of the research highlighted, among other positives, the University was considered ‘friendly’, ‘beautiful’, ‘international’, ‘diverse’, and had acknowledged strengths in teaching, world-leading research, campuses and employability.

On the flipside, we discovered that audiences were somewhat confused about what the term ‘global university’ actually means. We also found that the ways our audiences were engaging with the brand differed slightly between markets. This research enabled us to develop individual market-appropriate propositions, built on the recent rebrand. These had a focus on a specific Nottingham brand attribute for each location – be it the UK, Malaysia or China. We then developed 3 campaigns, designed to enhance the University’s reputation, showcase the new brand and reposition them in the global market.

We launched with an integrated, multi-channel content strategy, with activity including traditional digital and out of home awareness platforms, as well as reaching the large audience in the target regions across China through their culturally specific social channels.

The results were outstanding. Our KPIs, objective and brand baseline research showed us a total delivery of over 12m impressions, with an increase in spontaneous awareness observed across all 3 locations which was identified with our brand tracker follow up research. It also marked Nottingham’s first digital advertising effort in China. In spite of tight timeframes and the rigorous advertising approval process in China, over 2 million people within our target audiences were engaged on social media alone. And we successfully managed to deliver everything on time, and within budget.