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content marketing for student recruitment

Schools songs are nothing new, particularly “fight” songs for college sports teams. But now some institutions are producing official music video anthems to build brand prestige and attract new audiences.

When you consider the rise of visual content marketing, perhaps this trend isn’t really so surprising. After all, quality video anthems are an ideal combination of all things shareable and most beloved online right now: music, visuals, video, and compelling narrative content.

Plus, a quick glance at industry stats shows that video on social media is growing more powerful by the minute. Here are just a few numbers to put things in perspective:

  • Since 2014, Facebook has averaged more than 1 billion video views per day
  • YouTube overall, and even YouTube on mobile alone, reaches more 18-34 and 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.
  • The number of advertisers running video ads on YouTube is up more than 40% y/y
  • In 2015, 40% of the top 1,000 most shared Instagram videos were posted by brands

Here’s a look at several different approaches to creating higher ed video anthems, and how they reflect broader trends in content strategy for student recruitment.

Some Schools Ask Students to Create Official Video Anthems

When it comes to singing the praises of your institution, it’s always better when it comes straight from your students. Prospective applicants will always trust testimonials over manufactured marketing messages, which is one of the reasons why student-generated content is so valuable.

Schools should always be on the look-out for new and creative ways to solicit positive feedback from students about their life on campus and in the classroom. Many institutions hold contests (often on social media), asking students to submit images, videos, and short narratives about everything from their favourite spot to relax on campus, to how their education has most impacted their lives.

Simon Fraser University has captured the best of all worlds (textual, visual, musical…) by holding what they called a “Legacy Song Contest” to commemorate their 50th anniversary in September 2015.

higher ed content marketing

SFU invited musically-inclined students to “leave a legacy” by uploading entries to the contest, which were evaluated by a panel of SFU students, staff, faculty and alumni.

The winning music video was posted on the Simon Fraser website and social channels, and the band performed live at the university’s 50th anniversary celebration. Here’s a look at the video and winner – fourth year SFU business student Caleb Sung:

YouTube video

Such an unabashed declaration of love for school and student community is the highest praise an institution can get!

Plus, the title and subtance of the song align perfectly with SFU’s institutional slogan, “Engaging the World.” This is an ideal piece of student-generated content the school can use for years to come, at traditional events like open houses and recruitments fairs – and online as part of their digital recruitment strategy.

Some Schools Go Pro to Make Their Music Videos

Rather than tapping students’ raw talent, some universities are using well known pop music combined with video to create their official school music videos.

This variety of anthem tends to be less of a direct-sell of the institution, and may not even mention the school by name. The song lyrics will promote a particular set of values and aspirations, while the video anchors these sentiments within the school experience – thereby allying the institution with content that is ALREADY popular among its target audience.

Here’s a really strong example from the University of Victoria (UVic) that’s been getting quite a bit of buzz in education marketing circles. They’re using a song called “Invent it all Again” by American indie band, Faded Paper Figures.

We’ll talk more about why their choice of band and content is significant, after you’ve had a chance to look at the final product on YouTube:

YouTube video

There’s been nothing but positive feedback to this music video so far, which takes viewers on a tour through the UVic campus by bike. We also see students in various learning environments, which represent UVic’s diverse degree programs.

Strategic Band & Song Selection

Not only are the band members of Faded Paper Figures advanced degree-holders, well known for academic prowess outside of the recording studio (great message for students), the song lyrics focus heavily on themes that align perfectly with UVic’s slogan, “Discover your Edge”, including:

  • Questioning norms and thinking outside the box
  • Pushing research and innovation forward
  • Re-inventing oneself and mapping out an inspiring future
  • The value of progressive learning and collaboration

Here’s a shot of the UVic YouTube home page, where the video (released in October) is prominently featured:

higher ed content marketing

If you’re going to select an existing song for your music video, it’s extremely important to look not just at the lyrics themselves, but at the band’s identity and reputation. Once you’ve made your music video public, your institution will automatically become associated with these individuals.

Promoting without Selling

And at no point does this song even mention the University of Victoria. It’s completely non-selling in that regard. The listener connects the dots on their own by looking at the video – which is very simply done, and something any school could consider doing for themselves.

The advantage of enlisting the pros for your video anthem?

  • You’re assured of high quality music production value
  • You align your school brand with content many students will already know and enjoy
  • There’s no need to develop original music and lyrics, which is great if you’d like to create your video anthem quickly
  • The final product doesn’t feel as salesy as theme songs that directly promote the institution by name

Using Video Anthems for New Student Orientation

The next example from Rutgers University actually claims a dual purpose, to both welcome a new generation of students and commemorate the institution’s upcoming 250th anniversary. But as we’ve already said here, it makes perfect sense to use and re-use content that truly exemplifies your school brand.

Rutgers’ Division of Student Affairs produced this video anthem, and it’s a bit different than the two others we’ve looked at here. It’s more of a “spoken word” narrative that describes the Rutgers’ brand story, the institution’s place in academic history, and the unique attributes of Rutgers’ students and alumni. Take a look:

YouTube video

The video is a bit longer than may be optimal for social media, but the response has been largely positive since it went up last August. And it definitely drives home a key higher ed branding message, “at Rutgers’ we build champions…and we take home the gold!”

Higher Ed Video Anthems Produced by….the White House?

Yes. We couldn’t resist pointing out that Michelle Obama herself seems to have embraced the notion of the higher ed music video.

Released by “CollegeHumor” on December 10th, the video showcases the first lady and “SNL” cast member Jay Pharoah rapping the benefits of going to college.

It’s all part of a White House initiative to promote higher education to youth. Take a look at the hilarious, yet impactful, result:

YouTube video

So there you have it. A few different approaches to the higher ed video anthem to consider when planning creative content for your institution.

What’s your take on school video anthems? Is this something you think would help engage your students, raise your brand visibility, and help generate new inquiries? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


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