The Taylor Institute puts a personal twist to marketing

Written by: Pamela Kellman

Many University of Akron students, as well as college students outside of UA’s campus, may have recently received personalized mailers promoting the University’s summer 2012 semester.

These mailers are part of an institutional marketing project conducted within the College of Business Administration’s Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing. The project’s mission is to promote summer school at UA.

“Our summer 2012 XMPie campaign was unique,” Kathleen Kennedy said, who is the executive director of The Taylor Institute and Suarez Laboratories for Applied Marketing Research. “Unlike the typical program, ours was developed by students, planned by students and managed by students with professional support from University staff and vendors.”

The lab, or more specifically, the Xerox XMPie Cross-Media Lab, opened in August 2011 and was made possible by a major grant from the Xerox Foundation to the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron, Kennedy said.

“The lab…enables us to create PURLs (personalized websites), include personalization within a photograph and other advanced personalized elements,” she said.

Four other universities have received similar grants from the Xerox Foundation, but UA is unique because it has to only XMPie advanced personalization lab incorporated in a management and marketing program, said Kennedy. The others are used within printing and publishing programs. Akron boasts the only MBA (Master of Business Administration) program with a concentration in Direct Interactive Marketing with the Xerox Lab.

“The focus of the Xerox XMPie Cross-Media Lab is to create and produce integrated, personalized print, online and mobile communications,” she said. “The more relevant the communication is, the greater the response.”

“Working here [in the lab] has been a great learning experience,” Michael York said, who is a graduate student in information systems management. York developed the user requirements and worked on the core programming implementation of the project, which included working with a database of UA and non-UA students to discover exactly how each student should be targeted.

“Students received different messages based on their relationship with UA,” York said. “While students currently at UA received a ‘Zip Ahead!’ mailer with Zippy on a motorcycle, non-UA students received an invitation to learn more about our summer classes that focused on student experience.”

Kennedy deemed this one-to-one interactive communication, in which communications to students are unique to them. This is done by increasing the personally relevant content, she said. The one-to-one communication is the new standard for institutional marketing, according to Kennedy.

York had never heard of the software before working at the Taylor Institute.

“Working with XMPie has been a great opportunity to apply my skills in IT,” he said. “I enjoy working with the system and believe that the knowledge gained will be of great benefit to me in the future”

For undergraduate Corey Boyer, the lab experience is “almost like an internship in a way.” The sophomore is still undecided in his major, yet he has been responsible for much of the preliminary research that went into compiling the database of mailer recipients, getting real, hands-on experience in the marketing field.

The two-way dialogue between prospective student and the University is conscious of students’ privacy. It uses information that the students themselves offer the University.

The personalized aspects of the mailer include the student’s name and a personal URL (PURL), a personal website the student can access to gain specific information on the 2.073 class offerings for the summer 2012. The built-in course finder provides students with “a fast way to check how our course list works,” according to Kennedy.

“The idea of this is to give people an easy way to find if there’s something that interests them,” she said.

This technology has the power to save the University money while also helping the environment. Every student has probably receiving mail at some point from a university promoting a program that is not relevant, such as a packet for a nursing program when the student is interested in business. All this adds up to wasted marketing, which ultimately costs money.

“We now have the technology to create a dialogue that allows us to stop mailing and emailing material that people do not want,” Kennedy said. “Consumer expectations are changing rapidly and we are working to truly personalize communications.”

Kennedy is currently seeking students to work in the state-of-the-art lab, specifically a student with skills in web development and a graphic designer. Those interested should email a resume and a brief statement of why they want to work in the lab to Kennedy at k.kennedy@uakron.edu.

For more information on summer 2012 courses, visit www.uakron.edu/summer/.