University of Missouri


Rebirth by Branding

As Missouri’s largest and most comprehensive university, the University of Missouri historically attracted approximately one-third of the state’s high school seniors each year and enrolled roughly 25,000 students. But beginning in the fall of 2015, Mizzou faced a series of racially charged events which the University failed to appropriately address. National headlines dominated the narrative, and student protest rose to a fever pitch, with members of the football team threatening to sit out an upcoming SEC game. Bowing to pressure, the President and Chancellor at the time resigned, but the University still did not take proactive measures to reconcile issues and redefine its image. The consequences were tremendous, including an enrollment decline of 30%, the temporary closure of five residence halls, and layoffs of hundreds of staff across campus. Mizzou—a land grant, AAU institution—was in crisis.

In 2017, new leadership stepped in and began making bold and difficult choices to get the University back on proper footing. President Mun Choi and Chancellor Alex Cartwright spearheaded organizational, programmatic, strategic, and brand-focused initiatives, enlisting 160over90 to improve sentiment among key audience demographics, and to increase enrollment for Fall 2018 and improve yield for Spring 2019.

We designed and disseminated a brand health tracking study, surveying prospective students/families and the general population in Missouri and target out-of-state markets to establish a perceptual baseline. Then, to improve sentiment, bolster recruiting, and start to reclaim the institutional narrative, we developed Mizzou’s first-ever marketing plan. We quickly generated creative and implemented high-visibility media initiatives, from billboards and bus wraps, to environmental graphics, to paid search and social media ads. We produced an anthem video. And more recently, we redesigned Mizzou’s .edu.

This is just the beginning of the turnaround.

  • CLOSED THE ENROLLMENT FALLOUT BY ALMOST HALF IN A SINGLE YEAR

  • 16% INCREASE IN APPLICATIONS IN 2018

  • 14% INCREASE IN YIELD IN 2019

  • STRONG REPUTATIONAL STRIDES IDENTIFIED IN BRAND HEALTH RESEARCH

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