Category Archives: University

09.06.2015

Bloodybigspider goes back to uni

We’ve been writing a lot for the education and training sectors recently. It’s an area we’re really interested in – our chief copywriter SOH is currently doing a part time Master’s at the University of Roehampton so she know’s all too well about the student lifestyle.

Last year we did some work for Middlesex University, one of the largest universities in the UK, and we’re really pleased to announce that the eight course magazines we helped write are now popping through prospective students’ letterboxes nationwide.

Working with our lovely MDX client Nerissa Bryden (UK Student Recruitment Marketing Manager), we wrote the ‘Student Life’ section of the course magazines – 12 pages of useful info students need to know, like where they’ll study, socialise and sleep… oh and where to go for a beer and a bagel, obviously. We conducted and wrote a few subject-specific interviews too.

It was a great project to sink our teeth into, and we hope we get to work with Middlesex again soon.

MDX Collage 1 MDX Collage2 MDX Collage3MDX_Student lifeGet in touch if you have any questions about how Bloodybigspider can help jazz up your university literature!

 

26.03.2015

University of Leicester found Richard

It’s very rare that I spot a university tube ad that doesn’t make me say ‘ohhh dear’. But then I saw this cheeky little number on the Victoria line today and had to get a (rather shoddy) picture. See commuters, I wasn’t taking a stalkerish photo of you, it was just the ad!

IMG_6134They’ve obviously turned this around fairly quickly to capitalise on all the Richard III hubbub in the news, and I think it’s a really clever way of instantly giving a relatively modern institution a huge sense of heritage and history.

The University of Leicester was founded in 1921 – a lot later than the Oxfords (approx. 1096) and Cambridges (1209) of this world. But start talking about a 15th century king of England and people imagine, however subconsciously, they’ve been around for donkey’s years.

Plus they’re reminding us just how bloody clever they are. ‘Other universities couldn’t find him, but we did’.

Long live the University of Leicester!

 

26.01.2015
celebrity-deathmatch-new-pictures-4

University Deathmatch: Oxford Vs Cambridge prospectus copy

Did you watch Celebrity Deathmatch in the ’90s, where incredibly famous people fought to the death in a wrestling ring?

If not, you missed seeing Michael Jackson getting kicked into a pool of acid by Madonna, De Niro bashing Pacino’s head in with a mallet, and Ricky Martin biting off Marilyn Manson’s hand.

They were all made of clay, of course, but you knew the real celebs were just as scrappy behind closed doors

Well, welcome to University Deathmatch, another tense battle of strength but with much less acid and head-bashing and a lot more commentary on copywriting and marketing techniques. Excited? LET’S GET IT ON!

I’ve had a look at the online prospectuses (prospecti?) for Oxford and Cambridge Universities to compare how they sell themselves to potential students. Rather than analysing all 360 pages (which nobody wants), I’ve focused on the first double page spreads directly after the contents, since this is where you’d expect them to wow us with their best bits.

Alright Cambridge, good clean fight please:

It’s taken me ages to write this blog post because I kept getting bored and giving up. I thought my procrastination and lack of professionalism were to blame, but actually I think it’s because Oxbridge copy is dryyy – Cambridge particularly.

It’s all me, me, me and there’s zero personality. Reading their prospectus is like listening to a robot read the phonebook (but far less fun because who doesn’t like robots?).

In their defence, Cambridge‘s first DPS opens with a nice, full page photo of the university building. Very pretty, very impressive. Considering most unis feel quite samey once you’re inside, the facade is an important differentiating feature, so makes sense to show yours off if it looks as good as this.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 16.05.07

Next they jump into describing how the university works and what makes them different, with the rather clinical headline ‘Cambridge Explained’. There’s lots of positive language, positioning their degree courses – which they say are more flexible than most universities – as ‘the Cambridge advantage’. On the next page there’s more explanation of how the ‘collegiate’ aspect of the uni works; presumably they know that this tends to confuse people when applying. That’s all fine and dandy but there’s nothing that would get my heart thumping if I were a prospective student.

Then it’s all about determining whether you are good enough for them. They say you should be aiming for ‘excellent examination results’ (well duh), and need willingness to ‘argue logically but to keep an open mind to new ideas as well’. So far, so generic. Then it seems like they might be warming up a bit, asking you to make sure you’ve chosen to study something you’re passionate about, instead of the course you think you ‘ought to do’. Good advice, Cam! Way to empathise with your readers. But they don’t exactly suggest you find ‘something you’re passionate about’; they suggest a course ‘you’re most enthused and inspired about’. Odd, clunky wording that sounds so much better the way I said, don’t you think?

And that’s it, really. Overall, a fairly well-written but boring bit of copy that’s definitely not benefit-driven or audience led. It’s all about Cambridge and how terrific they are, rather than the student and what they’ll gain from attending. The three big headlines on the page, ‘Cambridge explained’, ‘who does what?’ and ‘what are we looking for?’ are all about them, not you.

Now Oxford, keep it above the belt 

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 14.43.50

I’m no creative director so I’ll leave the design critique to the experts, but I was surprised by Oxford’s prospectus – and I presume that’s what they’re aiming for. You’d expect their publications to be super slick, uber-professional and, well, a bit dowdy, but the 2015 prospectus has a cut and paste edge, with loads of doodles, bright colours and strong, quirky typefaces. I’m not saying I like it, but the design does make the whole thing feel a lot less intimidating than you’d expect from the oldest university in the English speaking world.

The prospectus is full of student photos and, more importantly, testimonials – something that plays a huge part in the purchase decision – so it feels like the reader is firmly at the heart of their marketing, rather than the uni itself. Sadly the copy doesn’t quite keep up, though it’s much more human and enjoyable to read than Cambridge’s offering.

The headline’s not bad: ‘❤ Oxford’. That’s obviously the collective student body talking, so ‘I ❤ Oxford’ really means ‘you’ll ❤ Oxford when you’re one of us’. Things go downhill for me a bit once we get to the body copy, where Oxford’s ‘retaining a special place in the academic landscape’ and ‘generating admiration’. I know, I know, Oxford people are smart, but they don’t all talk like that, do they? I’m not sure if this stiff, wordy copy is a deliberate attempt to sound intellectual, or if they just can’t help it, but this really isn’t how most 17 year olds speak so I’m sure a lot of readers will be put off. That’s probably what Oxford’s aiming for (it’s not like they need to beg for admissions) but it seems a shame. No matter how clever and well-read prospective students might be, they’re still teenagers trying to make a massive life decision. Tone down the big words a bit and you might just make the process a bit easier on them.

Once their ‘differentiating characteristics’ are finished ‘forming the essence of the Oxford experience’, we get to a nice testimonial from graduate Matthew. They’re a bit vague about Matthew – what course did he study? When did he graduate? – but he tells us:

I didn’t know what to expect from Oxford other than a great education. In fact those three years have stayed with me in all sorts of ways. But perhaps most importantly I left university feeling able to choose who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I still feel lucky to have been there.

Well done Matthew! I hope you’re off curing cancer or running the country now.

Testimonials are a nice way of introducing a slightly different tone of voice – the voice of your customers – into the mix whilst keeping the rest of your copy on-brand, but I can’t help feeling that if your customers’ tone or vocab is so drastically different from your own, you need to rethink your brand guidelines. Matthew’s quote seems spot on: he’s obviously articulate and a bit of a deep thinker – the all-round bright spark we’d expect from Oxford. But his words are far more natural and relatable than that body copy we saw earlier. Matthew, put down the petri dish and get your butt back to Oxford. They need a new prospectus editor!

Next there are four boxes outlining, I assume, Oxford’s biggest USPs: the college system, financial support, tutorial teaching and career opportunities. The copy here isn’t bad and they start painting a picture of the campus so readers can begin imagining themselves there. Down the side, in tiny type, is a stat announcing Oxford is ranked #1 for employability. I’d say that’s a pretty impressive stat so I don’t know why they’re being so shy about it.

The result – drumroll please…

In the end, Oxford walloped Cambridge with a frying pan and drop-kicked them out of the ring before skipping through the crowd shouting ‘we are the champions!’ Actually they shouted ‘we are the institution that surpassed all rivals in this particular sporting contest!’ but you know what they meant.

Well done Oxford!

19.01.2015

See how three Leeds unis market themselves online

Leeds_river_wharf

Having recently finished some copywriting work on a university prospectus (currently under wraps until it’s gone to print), we’ve got the bug for higher education marketing and have been sneaking a peak at other unis to see how copy and digital play a part in attracting new students. As we mentioned in our blog about the big ten London universities, 67% of students use social media when choosing a course, so it’s definitely clever to keep your digital channels in ship shape.

As a Leeds lad, born and bred in Yorkshire I thought I’d do some investigating into the website landing pages and Twitter bios of the three universities from my hometown: University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University (formerly Leeds Met) and last but not least, Leeds Trinity University.

Looking at the UK University League Table for 2015, out of the West Yorkshire based universities the University of Leeds is the highest ranked and stands in 28th place, Leeds Beckett University is 108th and in 111th place stands Leeds Trinity University.

1) Let’s start by having a butchers at the University of Leeds:

University of Leeds 2

I was quite disappointed when I saw this website, since it’s the highest ranked out of the three but definitely doesn’t blow me away.

I’m no designer (I’ll leave Steve and his team to wade in on that side of things later) but I’m not keen on the overall look and layout of their site. There’s nothing very eye-catching other than that image of the clock tower. The type is far too small in my opinion. Ideally you want to see big, bold headings – something that’s going to grab your attention. But instead it all just feels dull and charmless. They know they’re already a top uni, so perhaps they don’t think a nice, colourful website is necessary.

If I were a prospective student, I’d be pretty confused right now about where I should be looking or why I should spend any more of my time checking them out.

I wonder what they’re social media site presence is like…

Uni of Leeds Twitter

Okay, so you’re the official Twitter account for the University of Leeds and I’m a prospective student. Nice to meet you. Or is it? As soon as I get onto the official Twitter account you’re already redirecting me somewhere else: “Prospective students, see @ComingtoLeeds. Current students, see @UoLStudents.”

If prospective students are sent one way and current students another, who is this Twitter account actually for? Seems weird to me.

So University of Leeds, you’re top of the charts in terms of league tables, but certainly not top of my web-based research!

2) Next up is Leeds Beckett University which recently underwent a rebrand, changing their name from the tried and trusted ‘Leeds Metropolitan University’ to ‘Leeds Beckett University’. Apparently this was because they’d ‘outgrown’ the old name, which I reckon shows how (some) universities are trying to move with the times in order to attract the new generation.

Is Leeds’ second best university any better with their digital marketing?

Leeds Beckett Uni

Checking out their homepage, I would say yes, definitely. Look at how well they’ve used the space: the entire screen is filled and they’ve included big, high-res feature images in their four-frame carousel too. Everything fits the uni’s brand identity and instantly creates a connection with the visitor. The text is a nice size and grabs your attention immediately. Notice the use of arrows to direct you; you don’t have to make any decisions, they’ll tell you where to go.

You can instantly see a clear, bright pink call to action on the first page: ‘Apply now’. It’s like they’re saying ‘we’re the place for you and you know it, even though you’ve barely looked around the site.’ I’m more inclined to stay on this website and look around than the last one, as they’ve obviously put some thought into it, which gives you warm, cuddly feelings about the uni already.

So their website is pretty impressive, but are they worth following on Twitter?

Leeds Met Twitter

So we know we’ve got the correct Twitter feed – “The official account of Leeds Beckett”. They reel us in with words like ‘world-class’ (although what does that really mean?), and ‘lively, friendly university’ makes it sound like a fun, sociable place to be, although surely any university could make the same claim.

3) Finally, Leeds Trinity University. They might be ranked 111th in the league table but they’re eighth in the country for assessment and satisfaction, with an overall 88% of students saying they’re satisfied with their course. Leeds Trinity might not be the most popular institution in the wild west (of Yorkshire), but how’s their digital marketing?

Leeds Trinity Website

I’m sorry to say I think their website might just be the worst out of the three. Other than the logo, they don’t seem to have much brand identity at all. The site feels like it was put together pretty quickly without much design consideration.

There’s no consistency in typeface, or colour and size of text. It’s all a bit random, really, and the whole things feels amateurish – definitely not the impression you want to give anyone thinking of spending £9,000 to attend the uni. Certainly if you’ve got a prospective student interested in a creative or marketing course.

And how’s their Twitter game?

Leeds Trinity twitter

Bravo. They’re Twitter account is the best of the three. There’s a nice warm welcome and good use of a friendly exclamation mark! They’ve got a decent call to action, too: ‘follow us for news, events and other musings about student life’. Alright Leeds Trinity, don’t mind if I do.

It sounds like the Twitter feed’s going to be pretty fun to read, with the lighthearted copy telling us to look out for ‘musings’ instead of IMPORTANT CAMPUS UPDATES or the like. They’re obviously not super full of themselves. So good work Leeds Trinity. We shall indeed follow you and we look forward to hearing more musings about student life. Bring it on.

And the winner is…

So after several hours staring at university marketing collateral, here are my final thoughts:

In my humble opinion, I think Leeds Beckett University comes out on top after putting all three local unis under the microscope.

Their website’s by far the best and most modern. There’s no negative space; they make the most of the page with nice hero images, clear headers and some directional arrows to boot. There’s a call to action convincing you to sign up straight away, and they’re consistent with their brand identity.

Their Twitter ain’t bad either, painting more of a picture than the others with words like ‘world-class’, ‘lively’, and ‘friendly’, although there’s definitely room for improvement. Some more specific description in place of generic adjectives wouldn’t go amiss, for example.

But overall I salute you, Leeds Beckett Uni. You win the coveted ‘Bloodybigspider’s best Leeds university landing page and Twitter bio’ award. It’s in the post.

06.01.2015

How not to advertise your student loan company

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a particularly confusing ad for Future Finance on the train:

FutureFinanceAd

Hands up who understands what they’re actually offering? Sure, once you get past about six different text sizes, colours and weights, you finally spot that they’re peddling student loans. But what’s with the ‘welcome back’ intro? It’s the copy your eyes are drawn to first so you’d kind of expect it to hint at what the ad’s selling, but what are they welcoming me back to?

The image makes it fairly obvious we’re talking about universities here, so I’m supposed to be a postgrad, right? Being welcomed back into education after a break. Or is it aimed at second years who’ve suddenly realised they’re not coping financially?

If I were pushing student loans, I’d probably start by targeting prospective students who think they can’t afford uni – they’ll need to figure out how they’re paying their fees now, way before freshers’ week. At the very least I wouldn’t alienate them by suggesting the service is only for returning students.

And don’t get me started on that wishy washy ‘you’ve got a big job ahead of you’ rubbish. Thanks for stating the obvious, Future Finance. How many focus groups did it take to came up with that bit of insight? Students know how hard uni is – and why bring that up anyway? It won’t persuade them to take out a loan; they’ve already decided they want to study or they wouldn’t be reading the ad.

You know what would persuade them to take out a loan? Talking about MONEY. Lead with that. Play on their fear of running out of cash, or their worries about missing out on university altogether because a government loan won’t cover fees and food.

It’s 23 words until they get to the point, and even then it’s apologetic and indirect: ‘need a little financial help’? Like an uncle slipping you 50 quid. With a minimum loan amount of £2,500, I’d say that’s pretty big financial help.

Let’s gloss over that capital W mid-sentence, and the completely pointless QR code (I hate QR codes) and take a quick look at the overall design – it’s not great, is it? But when you check out their website and discover it’s a carbon copy of the ad (design and copy), you kind of get the feeling it was nearly five o’clock and somebody wanted to catch their train home, so they just said ‘hey guys, why don’t we copy and paste the website into a print ad? It’ll look fine.’

Sorry chaps, but it didn’t.