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.