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A Comprehensive Brand Strategy for Enrollment Impact

The stars recently aligned for the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law. The convergence of a $50 million naming gift from renowned trial lawyer Thomas R. Kline, a slate of new degree programs, and the construction of a new trial advocacy center presented the perfect opportunity for an updated brand strategy. The Kline School’s Director of Communications knew she could leverage a rebranding to accomplish several of the school’s marketing goals. With a two-person shop, however, she needed a strategy scaled to her team’s implementation capacity while also being distinctive and sweeping enough to set the Kline School apart from other top law schools. Drexel hired mStoner to develop an integrated brand and marketing strategy.

Brand and Marketing Strategy

The Kline School of Law engaged mStoner to create a comprehensive strategy that would enhance all aspects of its brand and ultimately boost enrollment for years to come. The deliverables from mStoner’s work included:

  • Brand discovery: brand research; brand focus groups; audience identification; brand perception gap analysis; persona creation; competitor research
  • Brand framework: brand pillars; elevator pitches; message map; tone words; conceptual brand art; marketing tactics
  • Editorial and content strategy: brand themes and messages; web and print audit with opportunities to enhance existing content; content best practice guide; print and web synergy strategy; comprehensive social media content strategy; editorial calendar and workflow planning; measurement and reporting guidance
  • Web strategy: social media audit and integration recommendations; full information architecture reorganization; guidance for program page improvement and application process streamlining; branding ideas for content; SEO recommendations
  • Print strategy: assessment of current materials; photography and imagery guidance; print piece recommendations for an enrollment suite; direction on integrating web and email campaigns with print; editorial calendar suggestions

In total, the deliverables worked together as a complete system, translating the Kline School’s brand into valuable positioning and laying out a customized, concrete plan for attracting and enrolling right-fit students.

All of these different strategy documents have been very helpful to our team. I see what mStoner is really doing: They’re teaching you to fish. They’re giving you materials so that you can then move forward on your own, guided by what they’ve presented.
— Sarah Greenblatt, director of communications, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law

Branding Under the University Umbrella

Drexel University’s brand was already strong, so mStoner built upon that strength while highlighting the Kline School’s unique characteristics in the brand messaging and conceptual art.

The Kline School had a pretty good sense of their strengths before we came along. We added value by helping them articulate those strengths in a way that clarified their benefits for students.
— Ben Bilow, senior creative director, mStoner

Drexel University’s brand essence centers around experiential learning, which is also a defining element of a Kline School education. The university’s tagline, “Live It,” effectively encompasses the Kline School’s unparalleled immersive opportunities that differentiate them as a top law school. By relying on the university’s strong brand capital to tell the experiential learning story, the Kline School communications team could focus their resources on developing additional brand messages. This approach had the added benefit of syncing up with the university’s central communications office.

The university’s central communications office liked everything they saw from our partnership with mStoner. They felt that the work was done well and that the messaging was in line with what the University wants people to know about Drexel.
— Sarah Greenblatt, director of communications, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law

The final Kline School brand that mStoner recommended included:

  • Six brand attributes (i.e., pillars or themes), including “Immersive legal education”
  • A narrative rationale and five supporting messages for each attribute
  • A brand architecture outlining the Kline School’s relationship to Drexel’s master brand
  • Six elevator pitches containing natural phrasings of the Kline School brand attributes
  • A message map translating each brand attribute into specific benefits for each of the Kline School’s target audiences (e.g., the academic superstar, the international student, the value seeker, etc.)
  • Tone words to use in print, digital, and in-person interactions, as well as guidance on which words to use when speaking to different audiences

Brand Execution

Next, The Kline School and mStoner collaborated to execute the new brand strategy through a few high-priority projects. These included a re-organization of their site’s information architecture, a viewbook, and a slate of related print materials — all of which spoke to the needs and desires of prospective students through the recommended brand messages.

Viewbook & Print Materials

The viewbook and print materials emphasized the experiential learning attribute of the brand strategy. The Kline School offers an unmatched selection of co-ops, clinics, and pro bono work to give students one of the most immersive and practice-focused legal educations in the nation. The print pieces showed how individual students benefitted from the practice opportunities and also presented their timelines so prospects could understand how everything fits into three years.

Information Architecture & Web Strategy

mStoner recommended eliminating the audience gateway page for prospective students and instead focusing the whole site on prospective students, as best practice suggests. The project team also outlined a very simple topic navigation, cleaned up the menus, provided an improved template for program pages, and suggested a new section called “The Kline Difference” to highlight institutional strengths of specific interest to prospective students. mStoner also collaborated on a solution for consistent and more visible calls-to-action and conversion content: use a fly-out menu across all pages with links to “apply now,” “visit,” “make a gift,” or “news.”

The IA strategy was a quantum change for us. The recommendations mStoner made were really solid. The site is much more prospect-focused, as it should be. After all, that’s why you have a website in the first place.
— Sarah Greenblatt, director of communications, Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law

Since collaborating with mStoner, Greenblatt reports her team has already started to implement the new brand messaging on the website and follow up on mStoner’s suggestion to create microcontent. She now regularly posts photos on Twitter and the admission pages with short, on-brand messages and a link to specific pages.

KlineSchoolofLaw_on_Twitter___Our__lawstudents_master_the_heart_of_the_deal___TransactionalLaw__https___t_co_w4IYtbCcQk_https___t_co_kGsdFpIsTj_

Results

The Kline School achieved an 18 percent increase in applications this year. While a direct correlation to the rebranding would be impossible to draw, Greenblatt does allow that “it would be fair to say the increase may be associated with the rebranding.”

Greenblatt also received positive feedback on the rebranding and IA update from stakeholders. Appreciative words came in from the Founding Dean of the Kline School, the Dean of Admissions, and Drexel University’s central communications team, among others. On a recent recruitment trip, prospective students also spontaneously shared that the Kline School’s website was “better than others and that information was easier to find.”

Significant growth lies ahead for The Kline School. Three new degree programs and a trial advocacy center are poised to attract entirely new pools of students. The comprehensive framework of brand messaging and the ensuing suite of materials developed through this partnership has armed the already strong Kline School with powerful tools to influence their key audiences.

As one alumnus recently said, “The reason the Kline School is succeeding is because they are unapologetically innovative.” This savvy, agile institution knows it and lives it.

CORE CHALLENGE

A two-person communications team at a top law school needed a sophisticated brand strategy and a roadmap for implementing it.

SERVICES

Brand research; focus groups; competitor research; brand framework and pillars; elevator pitches; brand messaging; persona development; conceptual brand art; editorial and content strategy; marketing tactics; web strategy; social media strategy; print strategy; information architecture development; sustainability recommendations; viewbook; enrollment print collateral

Date

2016

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