Making the Grade: Capulet Goes Back to School

I would have made an excellent student at boarding school during my high school years. The idea of rowing teams, beds away from home and independence from my family appealed to the grown-up in my teenage, Anglophile heart.

So, I was delighted when Capulet was invited to collaborate with one of Canada's top boarding schools, St. Michaels University School (SMUS), to help them attract more bright minds.

The Best School Year Ever is a contest we helped SMUS devise, produce and promote to students in high schools across North America who want to win the chance to live and study on campus in Victoria, BC. The first grand prize is a full ride—room, board and tuition, worth about $50,000. There are also two runner-up prizes of a boarding scholarship worth $10,000 each. All three finalists win an all-expenses paid trip with their parents or guardians to visit the school. The contest ran for the first time in 2014 and SMUS is just about to wrap the third iteration of the contest, selecting a winner for the 2016/2017 school year.

When we started the ideation process for a Remarkable for SMUS back in 2012, we were inspired by Tourism Queensland's marketing campaign to attract new visitors with the "The Best Job on Earth" contest. The contest subsequently expanded into a program called The Best Jobs in the World. You may remember that contestants were invited to submit a video demonstrating why they were the best choice for the role of an island and park ranger.

Like the Tourism Queensland contest, students entering SMUS' Best School Year Ever contest were also required to make a short video. They also filled in an application form and uploaded a recent report card. And, like The Best Job in the World, the winner would write about their SMUS experiences on the school blog.


Why a Remarkable for SMUS?

1. To innovate. After attending a Capulet workshop on building Remarkables, SMUS Marketing Director, Laura Authier, was ready to take the plunge. Adding a Remarkable to SMUS' marketing mix would be a way to reach more students and different kinds of students than the school was reaching with traditional marketing, such as print ads.

2. An updated approach. Running a video contest was a way to experiment with a more modern approach to marketing, including running campaigns on social media platforms, trying Facebook advertising and rolling out drip email campaigns alongside the contest.

3. Get people talking. An initial goal of the campaign was to create PR opportunities for the school with the contest.

How'd We Do?

So, how'd the contest measure up against the goals? 

  • SMUS received contest videos from students in cities across North America—places the school had never reached before.
  • Best School Year Ever became a kind of 'skunkworks' for the marketing department who've used the contest as a testing ground for social media marketing activities, online advertising and email campaigning. It provided a reason for the marketing team to innovate and learn.
  • The contest didn't get a ton of media attention, though it did achieve some radio and print PR, though most of it was local in Victoria, BC.

There were, of course, some unexpected outcomes too. The most interesting was that the contest, which was conceived of as purely a marketing campaign, became an effective lead generation activity. Students who submitted videos but didn’t win still opted to attend SMUS after going through the contest experience.

Want to learn more about SMUS' takeaways running The Best School Year Ever? Check out Laura Authier's presentation on the project at the Beyond the Hype Conference in 2014.

Beautiful Websites, Capulet Approved

Digital strategists pay a lot of attention to social media tools, digital tricks and marketing tips. But, we don't always keep tabs on website design trends and evolution. Today we're celebrating some of our favourite websites of 2013 and letting you in on why we think they're so good. Knock To Unlock Knock is a smartphone app that lets you lock and unlock your phone, computer, or tablet by knocking on it, just like you would a door or tabletop. The website has almost no text and depends primarily on video, which reflects the app's simple but clever concept. This is an example of a website that's prioritized video over text and has integrated it seamlessly into the overall design concept in an original way. The downside? Depending on your internet connection all that streaming video may slow down the site's load time.

Waterlife It's hard to click away from a website that plays an inspired musical composition by auteur Brian Eno. Greeted with Eno's "An Ending (Ascent)," an instrumental piece that evokes the feeling of floating, visitors move through gripping storytelling of the last great supply of fresh drinking water on earth. The National Film Board's digital projects often hit it out of the park and this is no exception. WaterLife is a beautiful site that delights visitors while staying true to its advocacy mission.


Bear71 Another NFB project, Bear 71 is an award-winning website/documentary that elegantly marries digital advocacy, video storytelling and user interaction. Using sound, video and game-inspired features, visitors follow a grizzly bear in Banff National Park as she navigates a landscape that borders wild and urban areas. In 2012, Bear 71 won the Gold Cyber Lion Award at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Two years on, it's still a compelling example of how to inspire an audience to action with online storytelling.

Rolling Jubiliee The Rolling Jubilee is an infographic inspired website that packs a truckload of information--videos, graphics and copy--into a clearly presented scrolly site. The Rolling Jubilee raises money to purchase debt at pennies on the dollar and has already relieved nearly $15 million worth of debt. Though visually it's quite a subdued website, it does a fine job of making complicated ideas and information bite-sized and digestible.

Slavery Footprint This is a scrolly site that hits home. Slavery Footprint invites visitors to test connections they might have to modern-day slavery, based on current lifestyle and purchasing decisions. Take the survey and then move through the question tree by scrolling up, down and side-to-side. The site user interface design is intuitive and fun to use.

The New York Times "Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek" The New York Times continues to experiment with digital long-form journalism and succeeded with this spellbinding website that gracefully integrates text, graphics and video. This project even spawned a verb: "to snowfall".

The Roaring Twenties This site does a remarkable job of exploring the soundscape of New York City in the roaring 1920's. It uses an archive of documents from the period and snippets of early film to send the visitor back in time. It's a great inspiration for any organization with access to interesting archival materials.

For these websites and more, check out Darren's Pinterest collection of digital "Remarkables."