Kent State rolls out fall enrollment ad campaign


One of the new billboards installed by Kent State University. The University is launching a new campaign to enroll more students focused on visiting the campus.

Ian Flickinger

Kent State unveiled the first part of its fall enrollment campaign earlier this month by releasing four billboards throughout the Northeast Ohio area, along with new television spots and online advertisements.

The “Visit Kent State” mini-campaign, with creative assistance from current partner 160over90, will serve as an interim piece until January’s rebranding rollout.

The bridge campaign is designed to attract prospective students to plan a visit to campus.

“The thought behind the ‘Visit Campus Campaign’ is that we hear clearly that prospective students and parents are often most times so surprised when they actually step foot on campus,” said Rebecca Murphy, associate vice president for university communications and marketing. “They don’t realize how beautiful our campus is. They don’t realize how welcoming and friendly and inclusive we are; and they are so pleasantly surprised, and they love it once they come to campus.”

Murphy said there are two different versions of the billboard: one with a student in an airplane with the words, “Where are you heading? Are you there yet?” and a second with a young woman with the words, “Where are you? Where are you heading?”

The nearest billboard is located on Northbound Route 43, near Meloy Road. 

Both feature the hashtag #VisitKentState, which allows students to look to social media sites like Twitter and Instagram to see what their peers who have visited have posted about the university.

“I think that each new campaign that we do we will become more socially engaged,” Murphy said. “It’s just the nature of the people we’re speaking to, and we want it to be engaging and fun and interactive for them.”

Unlike past campaigns promoting Kent State’s accomplishments, this year’s spots focus more on engaging future students on a personal level.

“I think the more research that we do, the more that we find that students that are here really value Kent State for allowing them the freedom to be who they are,” Murphy said. “But also within that, it’s this freedom to be who you are, to find who you want to be. But we’re not going to let you stay who you are — we’re going to challenge you to get better.”

Pamela E. Grimm, an associate marketing and entrepreneurship professor, who is not involved in the campaign, said the campaign’s strategy appears to aim at engaging potential students before the initial visit takes place.

“When we see something like the student in the airplane and ‘How do you see yourself?’ what we’re really trying to get people to do, we’re trying to engage them mentally, physiologically, emotionally and get them thinking about themselves in relation to Kent State University,” Grimm said. “And then what we’re trying to do is give a variety of images so we’ve got something that any student can connect to.”

She said the fall campaign, deemed by many as the “bridge” campaign between the former advertisements and the future rebranding, wisely targets a crucial moment in any potential student’s life: the college visit.

“This campaign is targeting very specifically. In a hierarchy of effects model, you go from awareness-to-knowledge about a product. For a university to become knowledgeable, that usually involves a visit,” Grimm said. “Nobody makes a decision to go to a school, or very rarely do people make a decision to come to a school without visiting it, without seeing what it’s like, without knowing something about it. That usually involves a visit.”

While the research behind the campaign seems like high-brow material, it boils down to human emotion.

“When people make decisions about where to go to college do they approach it in a very rational way, or do they approach it in an emotional way?” Grimm said. “The truth is both.”

Grimm said for students, emotion often plays a larger role in the decisions than it does for their parents.

“You can be yourself, or you can be an enhanced version of yourself — a better version of yourself, a more exciting version of yourself, and Kent State can get you there,” Grimm said.

Ian Flickinger is a administration reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]