theCourseForum is an online database of course grade distributions and reviews submitted by University of Virginia students.Nearly 80% of undergraduate students use the site during their course selection process. However, the website's infrastructure and information content left much to be desired. Because the site had not been updated since 2008, many users viewed the site as obsolete.
Web traffic was fine, but the site needed more user-submitted reviews. For every few hundred views of a course, there would only be one of two reviews. In the end, users left feeling dissatisfied, but never took the next step to write reviews themselves.
How can theCourseForum modernize its brand and get a greater amount of user-submitted reviews for courses?
Although tCF is used by the majority of students, we had to understand why students never decided to write reviews. After some brainstorming, we realized three things:
- Writing a review wasn't easy. The process needed to be simplified to be used.
- Students only write reviews when visiting the site, but when students visit the site, they look for courses they have yet ti take during the pre-registration process. We need to prime students to visit the site when they are most ready to review courses-- near the end of the semester.
- tCF team thought that users would write reviews in order to give back to the student community, We didn't think that this message was strong enough. Reviews on tCF actually had tremendous power-- hundred os prospective students valued well-written reviews. Students should write reviews to speak to the masses.
At the University of Virginia, many organizations often use sidewalk chalk to advertise events or campaign for elections. To stand out, execution is everything and being different counts.
To increase brand awareness and draw up some buzz amongst students, we came up with the idea to create large stencils of theCourseForum's logo to cover in chalk paint, and we made them all by ourselves.
Armed with spray bottles and paper towels, we took to the sidewalks and major meeting places of UVA to put down six "chalk" murals that would be unavoidable to any student regardless of year or major, Establishing some major brand awarensss was just the start, and the buzz generated from our guerrilla marketing campaign made everything else that much more effective.
One of our guiding principles in developing strategy for theCourseForum was advertising done at the right place and time, Users had to be primed and ready to write reviews; ensuring this made our job more effective. Print advertising was the best way to maximize reach to thousands of students studying in the Universities libraries during exam time.
We created several flyer designs and distributed them during peak hours throughout th exam week at each major Univeristy library. Each design was bold, direct, and relatable to the student. In this case, subtlety was overrated.
Since theCourseForum requires students to register with their UVA emails from the start, we were able to leverage this contact list of about 14,-000 emails to conduct a comprehensive email campaign. Our mobile optimized, A/B tested email marketing campaign enjoyed an open rate of over 50% and a click-through rate to the review submission page of 2%, which is well-above industry standard.