"Built by You and SDSU"

MarComm Awards

The energy is infectious. The standards are high. 

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"Built by You and SDSU" billboard

Big things happen here.

South Dakota’s largest and most comprehensive university has so many incredible stories to tell. But with rising student loan debt nationwide - and more students (and their parents) wondering if a 4-year degree is “still worth it” – South Dakota State University needed more than a new ad campaign to drive enrollment. They needed to create an entirely new conversation.

FIRST STEP: Think like a Jackrabbit.

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Background

What drives a college decision, anyway?

Jackrabbits are known for speed, agility and next-level listening skills. So, that’s where we started. We dug into recent research and discovered today’s high school juniors and seniors – and their parents – rank “academic excellence” as the #1 decision-making driver for choosing a college. Not the campus. Not dining options. Not athletics and clubs.

It all boiled down to “show me the outcomes."

The challenge? Well, EVERY college and university talks about academic excellence and job placement. SDSU needed to stand out, not blend in.

The answer was not a fresh coat of creative paint over the same college clichés. It was hidden in plain sight everywhere on campus; and it was also the one thing no other college could touch: the Jackrabbit spirit.

Now all we had to do was capture it.

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"Built by You and SDSU" billboard

Approach

First, we talked to students.

Want to really know if secondary research hits the mark? Get real kids in a room and ask. Focus groups with high school juniors and seniors (including some self-professed “I’ll never go to SDSU” naysayers) provided valuable feedback on round-one campaign concepts. Plus, they 100% confirmed that academic excellence was the right way to go for messaging. (Fist pump.)

Then we went back to class.

Talk about a lesson in brand voice… The Epicosity team heard from a packed house, five times over, during a full day of hour-long discovery sessions at SDSU. We met students and staff, faculty and deans, alumni and foundation leaders, coaches and advisors, and many more. It was here that we fully connected with what it meant to live, work, study, motivate, dream and achieve at SDSU. And it was here that “Built By You and SDSU” found its imagery and voice.

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Concept

Distinctive. Powerful. Adaptable.

It’s no surprise the “Built By You and SDSU” campaign takes on the characteristics of a wild jackrabbit. After all, we needed a flexible concept that would resonate with many audiences – students and parents, faculty and staff, alumni and the SDSU Foundation, individual colleges within the university, partners and sponsors, just to name a few. 

Sometimes this campaign is bold and confident. Sometimes its thoughtful and inspiring. But above all, this is a campaign infused with the undeniable (and invaluable) Jackrabbit spirit – and how SDSU students and faculty use it to build successful futures like nowhere else. 

Blending in was never an option.

The Work

“Built By You and SDSU” is rooted in academic excellence, inspired by individual achievement, and championed by aspirational outcomes. The first round of integrated, multichannel efforts included broadcast and OTT video, streaming radio, outdoor billboards, and a variety of social media ads, videos, filters and stories.

At the heart of the campaign are three, 30-second videos shot on campus and on location with SDSU students, faculty and alumni. With phrases like, “You’ll be challenged here. You’ll be supported here. And you’ll go farther once you leave here, because you chose to start here.” – these videos gave university president Barry H. Dunn chills. In a good way.

Big and bold. Friendly and vibrant. Confident and inclusive. We couldn’t think of just one adjective to describe these outdoor and digital/social executions, so we’ll let the eye-catching design speak for itself.

“New future, who dis?” Custom photography of in-progress students stepping towards their goals showcases “Built By You and SDSU” with a fresh, modern twist. These kids and their optimistic expressions lend distinct feelings of friendliness and vibrancy to digital and social ads.

Built By You and SDSU - Tone and Style Guide

Research shows that academic excellence is the #1 decision-making driver for both students and parents. From there, it gets a bit more subjective. Before creating or approving content for the Built by You and SDSU Campaign, it’s important to remember the two fundamental (and omnipresent) challenges the entire higher education industry faces: Rising Student Loans and The Sea of sameness.

How will SDSU stand out?

By embracing boldness. By elevating the ordinary. By blending passion with pride.

We heard it loud and clear in the on-campus discovery sessions… this is no time to humbly blend in. This campaign needs to embody all of the characteristics of a wild Jackrabbit: Distinctive, Powerful and Adaptable. 

The student focus groups told the same story… they’re excited to make their mark, and to find the school that matches their energy and ambition.

PRIMARY AUDIENCE: Students and Parents

SECONDARY AUDIENCE: Alumni, SDSU Foundation, Colleges, Legislators, Elected Officials 

MESSAGING GOAL: “Own the Outcomes” Position SDSU as THE premier choice for academic excellence with an authentic Jackrabbit tone of voice.

Must haves…

Whether you’re creating or approving, make sure each campaign element includes at least one must-have listed below. Does the message:

  • FOCUS on the strength of our faculty and the outcomes for students.
  • SPEAK to community and connection both on campus and throughout Brookings.
  • CONVEY a friendly, vibrant and authentic tone of voice.
  • REFLECT diversity, inclusivity and an overall global perspective
Built by You and SDSU Message Map