Virginia Community College System

In 2008, the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) created an online tool called The Virginia Education Wizard. The Wizard is a one-stop, online resource that helps potential students and families choose a career, select a program of study, earn the right job credentials, or prepare for continued education, all on one website. Simply put, The Wizard is the Travelocity of higher education.

VCCS wanted the debut of The Wizard to live up to its magical name. They asked Siddall to develop an integrated marketing communications package that would brand The Wizard and help VCCS reach their very aggressive traffic and sign up goals.

To begin, VCCS wanted to define the true Wizard brand. We led them through a branding process that included a review of existing research, a market analysis, and interviews with students, VCCS staff and board members to understand the audience’s perspectives of community colleges and other related issues. This analysis helped us craft a core message: The Wizard is the beginning of an empowering journey that will help you shape the future you seek.

In short, the right tool changes everything.

Working with a $125,000 paid media budget, we launched The Wizard with geo-targeted online advertising that gave students, prospective students, their parents and guidance counselors an easy one-click way to visit The Wizard website and sign up for a user account. We organized an online continuous-optimizing program that allowed VCCS to test different message directions—financial aid, how to apply and career guidance—to see which performed best. Online banner and text ads were designed for sites such as Google, SnagAJob and Facebook. Five email blasts were produced and distributed to SnagAJob’s email list. And the campaign mix was continuously adjusted to improve effectiveness throughout the rollout period.

VCCS also needed a way to connect with their audience offline. What better way to reach potential community college students, parents and guidance counselors than at a high school football game? We negotiated the opportunity to place on-field signage at 16 high school football fields across the state, and set up kiosks for users to test The Wizard during games. PA announcements were used to remind sports fans to sign up at The Wizard booth for a chance to win one of several community college scholarships.

Our client, focused on accountability and results, had set goals of reaching 150,000 unique visitors and signing up 40,000 new accounts in a single year. The program we developed doubled that, drawing 303,160 visitors and creating 72,149 new accounts.

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