The new students at Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) will be moving into their dorm rooms tomorrow. We’ve already welcomed the new classes at LMU-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine and LMU-Duncan School of Law and the Inaugural Class of the LMU-College of Veterinary Medicine will conclude orientation activities today with the White Coat Ceremony. While these are all signs that summer is over and the fall semester is upon us, it also means it’s time to restart our recruiting engines.
For undergraduate students in the Class of 2018 the first lecture hasn’t been delivered, yet there is a group of staff on campus that is already looking to recruit the Class of 2019. That is not to say they aren’t worried about the experience of our current students, it’s just that their jobs require a great deal of looking ahead and planning for the future. And I am a member of that group. Actually, I kind of straddle all groups on campus because I have to look forward, look back, look around and do all I can to get the LMU name and brand out.
So, as our new students are moving into the residence halls this weekend, I will be pushing out the newest marketing campaign for LMU. It’s actually not an entirely new campaign, as we are continuing with the “Career Path” message and theme, but it is a brand new treatment starting with a new TV commercial. This time around we enlisted the support of a creative agency in conceiving a concept and producing the spot. I have been meeting with JAO Productions since early spring, discussing what makes LMU special and how to tell its story in 30 seconds.
For the past three years our commercial spots have been a series of “I am …” spots that highlighted the many career paths at LMU. It all started with “I am a nurse,” and included “I am a teacher,” “I am a business leader,” “I am a veterinary technician,” “I am a lawyer,” “I am an osteopathic physician” and “I am a physician assistant.” Once all the different spots were created and airing, we mashed them up for an “I am LMU” spot. It has been two years since we shot a new commercial and three since we had introduced a new campaign. Something new was overdue.
During our discussions, we focused on what makes LMU stand out from other colleges – its connection to Abraham Lincoln. This was a point the LMU administration really wanted to see emphasized. There were a couple challenges with the execution of this. The first was how to make a historical figure exciting to our primary demographic group of potential undergraduate students (16-18 year olds). The other side to that problem was treating Mr. Lincoln, his image, likeness and legacy, with respect.
No longer simply the 16th president of the United States, Lincoln has become a pop icon being featured in movies, tv shows and books from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and in commercials for everything from Geico Insurance to Mountain Dew. He is synonymous with the traits his legacy has touted including honesty, perseverance and loyalty. We wanted to find a way with making the connection without making Lincoln a joke or too serious. It was a fine line to walk.
It took a visit to campus and the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum for all the pieces to click into the concept we ultimately went with. LMU was founded on the principals Abraham Lincoln lived by. Our graduates become a part of his legacy. This is a point of pride for us. However, we recognize that most high school students aren’t worried about their legacy, let alone a President long gone with no living director ancestors. Ultimately what clicked with the creative team was LMU is not for everyone and every student isn’t cut out for LMU. From there, JAO Pro developed a script and we went to work arranging a shoot.
One of challenges with the final script was that it would call for a large cast with lots of extras. Always looking to be a good steward of the budget, I wanted to keep costs as low as possible, so we reached out to area high school students, faculty and staff and incoming students to serve as “extras” for the shoot. We ended up with around 30 volunteers (Thank You!), a couple of folks drafted the day of the shoot (myself included) and two paid actors in the cast. The volunteers were bribed with t-shirts and home baked cookies. The end result is a beautiful spot that I feel hits just the tone we were looking for. Check it out and look for it on a TV near you soon!