Connecting with the Unreachables: Navigating the Next Frontier of Digital Marketing with Google

Rhea Johnson
Associate Registrar, Recruitment & Admissions
Brescia University College
London, CANADA

Connecting with the Unreachables: Navigating the Next Frontier of Digital Marketing with Google
In case you missed the Converge 2019 digital marketing conference for higher education marketers and enrollment managers, you missed hearing Alex Fleshner (Agency Development Manager at Google) lead an insightful and relevant talk on connecting with the “unreachables”—a group of consumers that are digital natives, that us higher education marketers are having difficulty reaching through traditional online advertising channels.

Fleshner gave a few key action items and suggestions, starting with the attention paid to mobile devices. Fleshner suggests a time when it seems everyone is looking at their mobile phone, all the time, us higher ed marketers should spend MORE time on our mobile devices in order to connect with this hard-to-reach audience.

Looking at some statistics and headlines:

YouTube tops 1 billion hours of video a day (Wall Street Journal)
Digital Star Popularity Grows Versus Mainstream Celebrities (Variety)
It is estimated that 82% of all online traffic will be video consumption by 2021
The only things Americans currently do more of than consume video content, is eating and sleeping (Bureau of Labour Statistics)
85% of American teens ages 13-17 are on YouTube
At a time when television audiences are down and movie theatre tickets sales are declining, are we really understanding where the “unreachables” are spending their time? Young people aren’t reading “Teen Beat” at lunch hour anymore, they are checking in with their phones and connecting online—with friends, YouTubers and video content.

So then, do we really know who the “unreachables” are, and how do we attract them to our institutions?
First, this consumer group (with the name coined by Aga Khan) have a few notable characteristics:

They are complete digital natives
They are not Gen X’ers or Millenials
75% of all video consumption happens on their mobile device
They are not watching traditional television. (Over the last six years there has been a 30% drop in regular television consumption by this group)
They have shifted their viewing habits and spend time in-app and on new platforms—making them hard to reach through our usual digital advertising channels
So why does this matter to higher ed?
Here are Fleshner’s key takeaways for higher ed marketers, based on a Greenburg study of students searching for online degree options:

Takeaway #1
Digital influence is critical—it sees the highest engagement along a prospective student’s research journey. Fleshner isn’t suggesting we abandon traditional print advertising, but we should seriously consider how our institutions are using and generating video content not just for brand awareness, but direct student recruitment and enrollment. Higher education marketers must increase our institution’s digital touchpoints even to generate a single, potential lead.

Takeaway #2
Digital research for prospects doesn’t end after a lead is submitted—it actually intensifies. Based on research shared by Fleshner, the phase a prospective student spends between submitting a lead (or application) and actually enrolling at the institution is the highest. This is where higher ed marketers need to focus on continued digital connection to ensure our prospects they are making the right choice.

Takeaway #3
Online video has a direct correlation to lead (or applicant) progression to the next stage in the enrollment cycle. Based on research shown, students were 60% more likely to advance along in the applicant journey if they reported watching online video content.

Takeaway #4
Video ads were 23% more influential in enrollment than TV ads.

Takeaway #5
Video has the power to impact potential students’ emotion at all points in their journey.

Higher Ed marketers, what’s next for you?
The unreachables need video content, and more importantly the video content created must be optimized for viewing on a mobile device. If our institutions are not active on YouTube, we are not reaching our audience where they are.

YouTube has over 1.9 billion active users with 500 hours of content uploaded every minute; there are 1 billion hours of YouTube content watched every day. American teens (aged 13-17) spend more time on YouTube than Instagram or Snapchat. Influencers, or “creators” are more trusted by YouTube subscribers than traditional ads or celebrity endorsements. So then, how as higher ed marketers, can we tell our institutional story effectively via YouTube?

Google Preferred video ads: non-skippable 6 or 15 seconds ads delivered before the top 5% of YouTube content.
Sequential Story-telling with “TrueView”
Custom Affinity Segments—YouTube has the precision to target very specific, high-intent audiences based on interest and habits
Life Events—reaching prospects during major life events/milestones (ex. high school graduation
These are just a sample of some of the new, targeted strategies to make YouTube a platform your institution uses to connect with the “unreachables”. Perhaps, if higher-ed marketers can get active on our mobile devices as Fleshner suggests, and explore the robust offerings available to marketers on YouTube—the unreachables might be within closer “reach” than we think. #newandnext