Photo by popculturegeek, Flickr
Except for the fact that they exist, I confess I knew nothing about the Insane Clown Posse. That was before Karly Morisette’s presentation, explaining why these crazy guys with the clown make-up and Faygo (Faygo?) are a perfect example of how colleges should be approaching their marketing communications.
The ICP (see, I’m all hip with the lingo now!) basically went from a marginal group that had recently bee dropped by their Disney-owned record label to a two-person media empire with legions of devoted fans who snap up their music and their merch.(See their write-up in Wired, How Outcast Rappers Built and Insane Clown Empire).
So how did they do it? By knowing exactly who they are and never apologizing for it. As Karlyn explained, the ICP are not for everybody, and they don’t care. And in higher education marketing, we too often try to appeal to everybody.
For good examples of schools who get this lesson right, Karlyn points to religious schools. These school know exactly who they are and who their people are, so they don’t waste time trying to appeal to a general audience. My biggest takeaway: if someone asks you who your audience is for a campaign, website, or publication, and your answer is “faculty, staff, and students” or even “prospective students,” you’re doing it wrong.
Karlyn points to the controversial D+ campaign from Drake University as a successful campaign for what it achieved for its target audience, but a campaign that was ultimately pulled because of the negative reaction from other audiences, namely faculty, students, and alumni. Which brings her to her next lesson: take risks.
Karlyn wrapped up with an inspirational video from my hometown of Rochester, featuring autistic high school student Jason McElway who sank six three-point shots in the dying minutes of his only game. Finally, Karlyn reminded us to ask “why not?” and just get out of our own way when it comes to our projects and goals.