A Guide for Universities: Designing a Strategic Brochure to Attract Top Undergraduates6 min read
It’s a competitive world amongst universities with each one seeking to attract the best talent, to help boost their university’s UCAS application numbers. But how do you encourage the best students onto your university’s courses? Like a business, a university need to effectively market their offering and reach a large pool of potential students. The main tool for achieving this is through a university brochure for undergraduates. Follow this guide, created especially for university marketing departments, by Where The Trade Buys — a UK leader in booking printing and pop up display items.
The basics of brochure design
You first must gain an overview of how to design a successful brochure that will help to achieve your marketing goals.
To start, each page’s headline, subheading and body copy must be clear in content and layout. For example, your headings must be attractive, your text must be descriptive and your subheadings should act as a bridge that leads the prospective student from the attention-grabbing header to the informative body copy.
When mapping out your brochure in your mind or on paper, picture it in thirded sections. The ‘rule of thirds’ — both vertically and horizontally — will help you line-up text boxes and images to create a neater, more professional layout. Luckily, a tri-fold brochure automatically creates a vertical third — just don’t put important information on the folded parts.
Which fonts did you have in mind? Keep it simple and smart. Limit yourself to two font styles and three font sizes, maximum. Also, don’t embolden or over italicize too much text — this should only be done to emphasise a point. The more often you do it, the less power your words will have.
These are the basics of brochure design — but how can you make your university stand out against all the others in the UK?
What matters most to your current university students?
Research is essential before you begin designing the content for your brochure. When trying to attract new students, the University of York carried out extensive research over three years into 71% of its departments to discover why a student might want to choose here for their higher education courses. Afterwards, the university created and distributed engaging brochures and online content that connected with prospective students and showed them exactly why they should choose the University of York. The director of external relations at the university, John Concannon, said that the marketing material has been “positively received by prospective students and parents at open days”, and even lead to a “culture change in departments when it comes to undergraduate recruitment”.
Spend time with each of your university’s departments to find out what matters most to the students on their courses. After all, each course will attract different characters with varying ambitions.
Use the power of colour to grab attention
According to a report in The Guardian, British sixth formers achieved some of the best A-level grades for several years at the end of the latest school term. This means that many of your competitors will be striving to attract these new, high-achieving students at university fairs and exhibitions. So, how can you grab their attention when lined up next to hundreds of other tables representing other UK universities?
Your brochure must deliver an effective message clearly and instantly. According to the most recent research, marketing material has a maximum of eight seconds to grab attention. Therefore, your brochure needs to be bold and attractive. If red or yellow are your university colours, be sure to use these to your advantage. Red is considered the most attention-grabbing colour to humans, while yellow is the most visible to the human eye.
Of course, colour isn’t everything. You must also make sure that your title is emotive to encourage engagement — think about Durham University’s ‘Let’s make things happen’ header and ‘Redefine your future’ used by the University of Stirling. These are inspirational and will get the reader imagining what their life could be like if they studied at your institution.
Convey your university’s personality through imagery
Undergraduate students today are typically active on social media, so you need to use your brochure to tap into this trend. Did you know that visual content is 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other content types?
Images are an excellent and simple way to give personality to your university and make it more ‘user friendly’ — and photos that convey an emotion or display an action are best. Show students laughing, participating in sports, using hi-tech equipment, and collaborating on projects to highlight opportunities available at your establishment and hold the audience’s attention. According to research published in the Journal of Chemical Education, the first spike in attention lapse occurs just 30 seconds after engaging in an activity (in this case, a lecture). If you’re handing your brochures out at colleges, sixth forms and schools, you need them to remain interesting if you want to retain their engagement.
Paint an inspiring image in the minds of potential students
In the 2016-17 academic year, there were approximately 2.32 million students at higher education establishments in the UK. Student life isn’t a dream for the rich and academically gifted anymore, which means you must work harder to ‘sell’ the student life.
By using optimistic, inspiring and exciting content in your brochure, you can conjure up a positive image in your prospective students’ mind — phrases like modern city, award-winning courses and thriving student life are bound to pique interest! But, be sure to pay attention to the following sectors:
- Employability: students care about their chances of securing a job after graduation.
- Funding: how easy is it to get a scholarship?
- Accommodation: good living standards and nice areas matter, but aren’t always available.
- Nightlife: socialising is a big part of university, so what lies around your campus counts towards it appeal.
Obviously, your brochure size will determine content length, but it’s a good idea to try and devote a section to each of the above. However, don’t forget that out-of-class activities and studying abroad opportunities can really help you grab interest and push your university higher up in a student’s wish-list when it comes to UCAS applications.
Use statistics to impress
If you browse other universities’ brochures, you’ll find plenty of key data highlighted in bold and jumping out the page. 90% of your university’s research recognised around the world? Invest more than £10 million in facilities last year? 98% satisfaction rating in the latest national Student Survey? As part of your research, collect important data that you believe will prove how beneficial your university will be for an undergraduate. You can either place these within your copy body, or create a graphic of the most impressive ones.
Involve current students in your design process
You’re part of a university — a pool of fresh and specialised talent. So, why not use your students to your advantage during your marketing campaigns? Ask your design students to mock up a brochure that they reckon would work to promote your university, and get your marketing students involved by letting them project manage and make critical decisions on content.
Aside from physically being involved in the process of designing and creating your university brochure, your students are also an excellent source of knowledge. Send out surveys via the university emailing list or question students when they’re relaxing in their communal areas to gain an insight into what matters to them and why they chose to study at your institution.
The students behind the UCAS application are curious and eager. They want content that’s exciting and easily digested, and they don’t want to be bombarded with lifeless language, irrelevant statistics and condescending tones. Consider colour, layout, copy, and imagery; and make sure you create a positive identity that a new student will want to engage with. This is the stage of life when your audience is at its most aspirational, so complement their excitement and show them how your university can help them fulfil those dreams.