To help capture and strategically share the Bengal story, Idaho State University last month entered into an eight-month, $975,000 contract with an advertising agency based in Boise.
The partnership between ISU and Mitchell Palmer, a full-service agency formed 11 years ago by advertising veterans Billy Mitchell and Rob Palmer, is expected to provide the university with its first comprehensive statewide marketing and advertising campaign in school history, according to ISU spokesman Stuart Summers. Most of the nearly $1 million price tag will be used for purchasing and placing advertisements.
“We hear people say ISU is the best school and that it’s this best-kept secret,” Summers said. “We don’t want to be a secret anymore. We want everybody in the state to know that ISU is here and we are ready to make a difference. We want to be loud.”
ISU President Kevin Satterlee says that since his arrival to the school in June, he has spoken at numerous community events, and the most common feedback from constituents is that ISU’s story isn’t being told.
“We have a lot of great things going for us as a university and community.,” Satterlee said. “We are doing great things. But often, few people know about them.”
Until now, Summers said ISU has relied heavily on internal ad campaigns and coverage from local news organizations. ISU has promoted itself, and developed its identity, mainly through its own news releases, websites, blogs and social media channels. On average, ISU has spent $30,000 to $40,000 annually to market the university and what it has to offer, Summers added.
“In the past, we didn’t have the resources allocated to do marketing,” Summers said. “When you look at our competitors and our sister institutions around the region, we were allocating about 3 to 5 percent of what their marketing budgets were.”
A relationship with Mitchell Palmer and its staff of creative experts will provide ISU with an opportunity to identify and aggressively advertise its story in several forms and through various state and national avenues, Summers said.
“The ISU project is a collaborative rebranding and marketing effort, the purpose of which is to create a unique identity for ISU that authentically communicates its competitive advantages and differentiates the university from other educational options in the state and broader region,” Tom Donahoe, partner and creative director for Mitchell Palmer, said in an email to the Journal. “It begins with research and discovery to define the current core strengths and differentiating factors. We’ll look at every facet of the brand from academic and athletic logos to statewide television, radio and digital ads to on-campus banners and recruitment.”
Aside from the orange and black Bengals of Idaho State, everything is up for consideration for content development, Summers said, adding that the research phase of the process is underway.
The cornerstone of the research phase are listening sessions hosted by Mitchell Palmer on the Pocatello campus of Idaho State University. The sessions are set for Nov. 5 with the alumni and community session set for 5:30 p.m. These brand exploration meetings help Mitchell Palmer develop an understanding of the story ISU wants to tell from those who know the school best, Satterlee said.
“Our university has a long history, and we want to make sure our campus and community has a discussion about who we are,” Satterlee said. “The people who work here and live here are a part of who we are. I want to make sure we utilize that knowledge, that institutional memory and wisdom of the people who have been here.”
The research phase will also involve Mitchell Palmer distributing a survey throughout the state to learn more about ISU’s perceived strengths, weaknesses, and things people know and don’t know about the school, Summers said.
Once ISU and Mitchell Palmer have an idea of the story, ISU will begin placing ads in digital, social media, traditional media and billboards throughout the state. After the eight-month contract is satisfied, ISU will continue with the marketing campaign on its own for the next three to five years, Summers said.
“In January, people in all corners of the state will see Idaho State University in a new way,” Summers said.
Though ISU has the staff internally to develop and implement a marketing campaign, Satterlee said that the oversight and direction Mitchell Palmer and its staff of creative experts can provide is worth what the university will spend.
MItchell Palmer has previously worked on projects for Boise State University for more than a decade, in addition to work with the Idaho Lottery, RIDGID, the Idaho Meth Project and Truth 208 – a statewide prevention project aimed at reducing non-medical use of prescription medication.
“All of our marketing professionals are going to be part of this process,” Satterlee said. “But this type of work is a specialized skill set. It’s not that we don’t have it, it’s that using experts to help guide a process like this is valuable. Helping us frame our brand messaging, helping us develop a brand that helps us tell who we are and what we want to say will be better with some professional help.”
Officials with both Mitchell Palmer and ISU say they’re excited to embark on such a big cooperative project.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for Mitchell Palmer to work with a client as committed and enthusiastic as ISU,” Donahoe said. “Frankly, we are very aware of Boise State and the University of Idaho, but other than familiarity with the ISU Health Science Center in Meridian, we were less aware and knowledgeable of the many advantages of ISU. The more we learned about ISU, the more fascinated and enthusiastic we became. ISU is an amazing story that is ready to be told. It’s our job to help them tell that story in amazing ways.”
Satterlee echoed Donahoe’s level of excitement, saying, “There is a great story about Idaho State University and I think it’s time we tell it.”