When R. Ethan Braden took the helm as chief advertising and communications officer for Purdue College and Purdue World, he had his work reduce out for him.

“What I discovered in 2018 was a well-meaning however emaciated, antiquated, and dilapidated sort-of comms store of 55 people that have been usually pushed by the random and tactical advertising requests of the campus,” he explains.

Ethan’s first order of enterprise? To construct a world-class advertising group to inform the Purdue story now not because the pushed however as the driving force of the model.

He took the helm of the 150-year-old iconic Purdue model, which has graduated 27 astronauts (essentially the most of any non-service academy, together with Neil Armstrong). Throw in a pandemic, shifting notions in regards to the worth of a faculty training, and a number of goal audiences, and issues received complicated.

In the present day, Purdue’s advertising group stands almost 100 sturdy. They’ve elevated the $3 billion Purdue model and its portfolio, which incorporates the flagship college and its Purdue College On-line, three polytechnic excessive colleges, Purdue World for working adults, a brand new city campus in Indianapolis, a analysis basis, and an alumni affiliation of 600,000.

And Purdue content material reaches an even bigger viewers than it ever has. Underneath Ethan’s management, the group has grow to be a content material juggernaut, culminating with this 12 months’s viral video, What Can You Think about at Purdue?” (The spot amassed over 28 million views in eleven months on YouTube and was named a Content Marketing Project of the Year finalist.) It’s one in every of many the explanation why Ethan was named Content Marketer of the Year for the 2023 Content material Advertising and marketing Awards.

Check out Ethan’s content material strategy, how he will get his group into character to inform the emotional tales of Purdue, and the way he helped double Purdue’s advertising funding in 5 years.

Instilling a campus-wide mission to enchant

Ethan loves the phrase “enchant” in defining his content material philosophy, and it has nothing to do with princesses or legendary creatures. “The definition of enchant is ‘to awaken and entice an ecstatic admiration and demand for.’ And after we take into consideration content material and its distribution with our goal audiences, that’s the aim – to awaken and entice their ecstatic admiration and demand for Purdue in no matter which means at that second. Whether or not that’s to return to high school right here, purchase season tickets, come to work for us, companion with us on analysis, and many others.,” Ethan explains.

Staying ‘in character’ as a substitute of ‘on model’

When Ethan arrived, the advertising at Purdue was usually targeted on colours, logos, taglines, and fluff relatively than deeply understanding its college students’ and alumni’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors – the emotional resonance that even manifests itself in tattoos of the school’s logo, name, and boilermaker mascot.

That led Ethan to ask (and reply): “How are you turning up that pleasure, the nostalgia, the love, the affect this place has on people?”

To remain in character, the group developed an unlimited, centralized database {of professional} belongings and instruments obtainable for faculties and departments to localize relatively than creating one thing on their very own or making individual requests for marketing.

“There may be freedom inside this framework, so that you’ve received some latitude to inform your audience what you stand for. However the tip of the spear is Purdue College, and we wish folks to say, ‘This feels synergistic. This all feels prefer it’s coming from the identical place,’” Ethan says.

Cross-functional groups attain totally different audiences

Purdue advertising should attain potential college students, dad and mom, grownup learners, college, researchers, alumni, and others. To do this, Purdue’s advertising leaders broke the group into teams with deep experience and empathy for his or her goal audiences. “Our cross-functional teams are an X issue of nice advertising and nice storytelling,” he says.

For instance, when creating content about an grownup learner, the marketer isn’t the one one who wants to know the goal particular person’s journey. The photographer, venture supervisor, and author additionally have to know. “The richness of the collective output of the cross-functional groups is a lot higher,” Ethan says.

Advertising and marketing the advertising

Ethan is grateful that he acquired early buy-in from the college’s administration and Board to revamp Purdue’s strategy to advertising and its central group. However he didn’t cease garnering extra help and assets. “We do a good quantity of marketing the marketing to guarantee that the group understands what it has and appreciates it but in addition values it in a approach that permits us to proceed to do our jobs to one of the best of our talents and experience,” Ethan explains.

For instance, advertising promoted its phenomenal YouTube progress on a channel {that a} 12 months in the past already garnered 2 million views, besting its 5 benchmark peer colleges mixed. In 2023, Purdue’s YouTube grew that efficiency to a whopping 55 million views.

“I need the group to know that, and I need them to really feel like there’s unbelievable competence right here, so that they have such confidence within the folks which are telling Purdue’s story and the assets we’re being afforded to do it,” Ethan says.

Ethan’s advertising of selling has labored. Purdue’s advertising funding has doubled within the final 5 years, permitting him to extend the scale, high quality, and skillsets of the group. “I’d take (our expertise) to any Fortune 100 tomorrow and say we will do what they’re doing. We’ve got unbelievable entrepreneurs now, largely alumni, who love this place, and that’s the key sauce,” he says.

Past the almost 100 folks on the official advertising group, a campus neighborhood of about 300 different marketers and communicators collaborates and contributes, too. “When a number of folks have their fingerprints on one thing, they’ll personal it, implement it, and so they’ll endorse it with their deans and division heads,” Ethan says.

A 75-person scholar group referred to as The Boiler Ambassadors additionally acts like an company for the college. The thought manifested throughout COVID-19 once they wanted college students to assist disseminate the Shield Purdue marketing campaign.

Wanting forward

Ethan and his advertising group at Purdue aren’t resting on their success. “As true Purdue innovators and instigators of progress, we’re leaning in to see what’s doable [with AI], and we’re prepared to make some errors alongside the best way,” he says.

However irrespective of how they get there, Ethan will keep true to his skilled philosophy: “I need to construct manufacturers and groups that folks love and belief. We’ve been ready to try this right here at Purdue over the past 5 years. That’s the place we’re going to proceed to move.”

Could not attend Content Marketing World in individual this 12 months? Register for the Digital Pass to entry on-demand session recordings from the reside occasion by way of the top of the 12 months. Use promo code BLOG100 to avoid wasting $100.


Cowl picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content material Advertising and marketing Institute


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