Defy the Conventional marketing wins gold

Posted on Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Defy the Conventional banner in a flowerbed at a University of Ottawa entrance.

By Mike Foster

The University of Ottawa’s Defy the Conventional (DTC) brand re-positioning campaign has won a top award for marketing from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

The Defy the Conventional brand re-positioning and marketing campaign won gold in CASE District II, a region that includes 700 universities and non-profit educational organizations from Ontario, eastern US, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

“This positions us highly in the eyes of our peers. It’s also independent validation of our approach to the challenge and recognizes the quality of our execution,” said Jerry Jones, director of Creative and Brand, who submitted the University’s pitch for the award. “This CASE category is less about visuals and more about the thinking behind the positioning and strategy. It’s also about how well we integrated a highly complex, multi-dimensional campaign across internal and external channels and the results we achieved.”

The CASE judging panel voted overwhelmingly in favour of uOttawa’s submission, “citing the breadth and depth of the analysis, the concise and focused strategy and the execution of the plan with measurable results,” according to a CASE spokesperson.

One judge commented, “It’s evident that this campaign was supported by all levels of the administration and faculty and its execution embraced university wide.”

Two women wearing uOttawa Defy the Conventional T-shirts with tote bags over their shoulders, walking away down a pathway.

uOttawa staff “street teams” distribute free Defy the Conventional tote bags to raise awareness of the marketing campaign.

Launched in September 2014, the DTC brand re-positioning and marketing phase was designed to show that the University was more than simply a practical choice, as Canada’s bilingual university. It aimed to frame a new image of the University that more truly reflects reality and to build an emotional bond between uOttawa and its students, alumni, donors, future students, community partners and staff. The campaign tells the story of uOttawa as a place with an academic approach rooted in innovation and where unconventional thinking has always thrived. The marketing phase included elements such as a series of colour-coded banners, billboards and newspaper advertisements accompanied by pictograms and short stories, a dedicated microsite, an online component, captivating videos, T-shirts and a University-level brand advisory council.

“It is gratifying to see that our Defy the Conventional marketing campaign has been recognized with a gold award in CASE District II, which includes well-known Ivy League universities. We always knew we had a unique strategy that truly defined the uOttawa story. But to have this acknowledged by our peers further raises our profile and enhances our reputation,” said Louis de Melo, vice-president of uOttawa’s External Relations. “I would like to thank all of our talented staff who contributed to this great success.”

Billboard showing a pictogram of a trumpet incorporating test tubes as the pistons, accompanied by the words “Using music to learn about chemistry.”

A billboard on campus that captures the story of a student who created a rap song as a study tool.

CASE is an international professional association for people who work in alumni relations, communications, marketing and development. CASE, which includes more than 3,670 educational institutions in 80 countries, aims to spread good practice and help members build stronger relationships with their alumni and donors, raise funds for campus projects, produce recruitment materials, market their institutions and promote the importance of education.

The gold award in the marketing category will be presented to the University of Ottawa at the CASE District II conference, City of Firsts, being held in Philadelphia from February 7 to 9, 2016. Visit the CASE website to see the list of all CASE District II 2016 Accolades Award Winners.

In 2015, the University of Ottawa launched a $400 million fundraising campaign. Defy the Conventional: The Campaign for uOttawa is raising funds to support priorities in every faculty. The campaign will help uOttawa recruit and retain top talent and enrich the student experience. Donations will also support innovative capital projects.

DTC marketing impact at a glance

  • Advertisements had a positive impact on perceptions of uOttawa for one in four members of the general public and business community.
  • Monitoring showed a strong association between the DTC tagline and uOttawa after the marketing phase. The tagline was recognized as belonging to uOttawa by 81% of students, 96% of employees, 50% of donors and 39% of alumni.
  • Between September 15 and November 16, 2014, the DTC website had 24,000 unique sessions, significantly outperforming any microsite previously created by the University.
  • The DTC launch video on YouTube attracted 14,038 views over a four-month period.
  • The campaign yielded 163 earned media items between September 15, 2014, and November 3, 2014, reaching an estimated 2.3 million people.
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