What The Voice Tells Us About College Recruitment and Swag

If college recruitment and admissions were ever made into a reality competition show, it might look a bit like The Voice.

The competition starts with a small panel of industry celebrities evaluating a large group of contestants one by one based solely on a single “blind” audition. If the coaches like what they hear, they turn their chairs around to signal to the contestant, “I want you on my team.” When more than one coach “turns” for a particularly promising contestant, the interested coaches compete to try to get the contestant to commit to their team using every argument at their disposal. And there’s always swag that tells a story.

Starting to sound familiar? Imagine an admissions version, where institutions are coaches, classes are teams, and high-potential prospective students are contestants. It could be titled  “Yield Season.” (you’re welcome, NBC). It would write itself.

Alas, there’s no Yield Season(tbd) show just yet, but the reality of yield season is plenty to work with. Amidst fierce and growing competition, schools need to find ways to tell admitted students a compelling story of who they are, why they are the right fit, and what’s ahead for those who decide to deposit. It’s about making connections.

To take a note from The Voice, one thing the coaches do well is use swag to tell a part of their team’s story. Each coach has a different product they give to contestants when they join their team. The merch is smartly chosen with each product reflecting the team’s identity and conveying a sense of what’s important. There’s the boxing robe that comes with Team Legend, a fun welcome that evokes a sense of victory and tells contestants that their coach is always in their corner. Team Kelly gives out a shiny members-only type of jacket that works as a sort of team uniform, putting the emphasis on a strong sense of belonging and tight-knit, supportive team. Or there’s the vocal care kit Ariana Grande gives team members so they can take care of their “instrument” throughout the competition–both thoughtful and practical. It’s a great, simple formula for galvanizing connections with promotional products, making it a great fit for yield season too. Here are a few ways to think about products as stories inspired by The Voice but with higher ed budgets in mind.

Support Health and Wellbeing
Prospective students want to know that the college or university they choose prioritizes health and well-being. Sending self-care kits to admitted students shows that an institution values and  is willing to invest in its students’ well-being before they arrive and, presumably, once they move in. Kits can also give students things they’ll need for the next stage of their lives which can help further deepen the connection between school and student.

Share A Sense Of Community
The age old question when it comes to choosing a college is one of fit. What’s the overall vibe of the place? What’s the community like? Promo solutions can help shed light on those questions, through both form and function. Classics like t-shirts, socks and other branded apparel work as a fun welcome gift and give admitted students a tangible, visible way to endorse your institution. Branded tech helps tell the story of a digital first, always connected institution. Branded journals can be used to show an institution that values ideas. Sticker sheets blend messaging with image, logos and iconography to establish a sense of place. Every approach can strengthen connections with students, and help tell the type of story that persuades them to choose you.

 

MCW School of Pharmacy Uses Branded Admit Packs to Build Strong Connections

 

The most successful promotional product marketing solutions are the ones designed from the beginning to use swag to reinforce ideas and forge tangible connections with an audience. But there has to be a story. Without the story, promo would just be random products. To make merch matter, figure out first what story you want to tell, and then find the best way to tell it and where swag fits in the narrative. It’s not easy, but the impact of promo done well is unmatched in evoking emotions, ideas and possibilities that give prospective students everything they need to succeed. That’s something to sing about.

For product ideas and brainstorming solutions, contact our team to help tell your story and bring it to life!