Brochures and Your University: How To Boost Applications With Brochure Marketing

Every year, attracting fresh students to universities seems to get more competitive — and with fees at a high, it’s more important than ever to show students what they could gain from a university course at your institution. According to the latest statistics, studying for the majority of students stands at £9,250 for courses beginning in 2018. Although there are some exceptions — for students studying in Wales, for instance, as well as Scottish and Northern Irish students studying in their home countries — could this large fee cause young people to reconsider applying for a university spot?

By effectively marketing your university using quality print materials, you can significantly increase your chance of attracting students. There are many types of print marketing materials, from A4 booklet printing to saddle-stitched books; however, have you ever considered a brochure?

Sleek, professional-looking and effective; this form of marketing might be ideal for your university. For advice on creating an effective brochure that will engage and entice the best students, simply follow this guide created specifically for universities…

Be a major competitor

The objective of a good university brochure is to make your design stand out over competing universities. According to a report in The Guardian, British sixth formers achieved some of the best A-level grades for several years at the end of the latest school term. This means that many of your competitors will be striving to attract these new, high-achieving students at university fairs and exhibitions — so, what do you do?

Think about why your student should choose your university and what it could offer them and make this prominent on your front page. According to the most recent research, marketing material has a maximum of eight seconds to grab attention. Therefore, your brochure needs to be bold and attractive. If red or yellow are your university colours, be sure to use these to your advantage. Red is considered the most attention-grabbing colour to humans, while yellow is the most visible to the human eye.

A strong and emotive header is also key to the success or failure of your brochure when dealing with prospective university students. You must also make sure that your title is emotive to encourage engagement — think about Durham University’s ‘Let’s make things happen’ header and ‘Redefine your future’ used by the University of Stirling. These are inspirational and will get the reader imagining what their life could be like if they studied at your institution.

Create a diverse design

Visual content is 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other content types. Since a large portion of social media’s audience are also your target audience, it’d be a wise idea to use plenty of imagery in your brochure. Use high-quality, descriptive photos throughout to give personality to your university and make it more ‘user friendly’. If you really want to boost your ROI, featuring photos that convey an emotion or display an action are best. Show students laughing, participating in sports, using hi-tech equipment, and collaborating on projects to highlight opportunities available at your establishment and hold the audience’s attention.

Attracting and keeping the reader’s attention is critical — you want them to read as much of your brochure as possible. According to research published in the Journal of Chemical Education, the first spike in attention lapse occurs just 30 seconds after engaging in an activity (in this case, a lecture). If you’re handing your brochures out at colleges, sixth forms and schools, you need them to remain interesting if you want to retain their engagement.

Share in your students’ excitement

What you choose to discuss in your brochure is another key factor that everyone designing a university brochure must get right. In the 2016-17 academic year, there were approximately 2.32 million students at higher education establishments in the UK — that’s a decent amount of young, aspiring people to attract. By using optimistic, inspiring and exciting content in your brochure, you can conjure up a positive image in your prospective students’ mind — phrases like modern city, award-winning courses and thriving student life are bound to pique interest! But, be sure to pay attention to the following sectors:

  • Funding: are there scholarships?
  • Nightlife: are there places to socialise nearby.
  • Employability: do most your students secure jobs after graduation?
  • Accommodation: is student accommodation modern?

These topics matter to your students, so tell them what you can offer in a positive manner — and don’t forget that out-of-class activities and studying abroad opportunities. These can really help you grab interest and push your university higher up in a student’s wish-list when it comes to UCAS applications.

Research your university

Put in plenty of research time at the start of this project and you’ll reap the rewards by then end. A good example of excellent research is the University of York, which carried out extensive research over three years into 71% of its departments to discover why a student might want to choose here for their higher education courses. Afterwards, the university created and distributed engaging brochures and online content that connected with prospective students and showed them exactly why they should choose the University of York. The director of external relations at the university, John Concannon, said that the marketing material has been “positively received by prospective students and parents at open days”, and even lead to a “culture change in departments when it comes to undergraduate recruitment”.

What attracted current students to your university in the first place? What do lecturers on each department think are the best parts of the courses they teach? Get personal and detailed answers — after all, each course will attract different characters with varying ambitions.

Get your current students involved

Why not share the workload with your current marketing and design students to get an overview of your brochure prior to sending it off to the printers? Ask your design students to mock up a brochure that they reckon would work to promote your university and get your marketing students involved by letting them project manage and make critical decisions on content.

You could also send out surveys via the university emailing list or question students when they’re relaxing in their communal areas to gain an insight into what matters to them and why they chose to study at your institution.

Grab attention with key data

Numbers, percentages and snippets of impressive information that stand out from the rest of your brochure’s copy and imagery are sharp and effective ways to grab attention and entice people to consider your university. Students want a reason to study somewhere and they want it fast — which means, without reading the entire brochure, back to back. 90% of your university’s research recognised around the world? Invest more than £10 million in facilities last year? 98% satisfaction rating in the latest national Student Survey? As part of your research, collect important data that you believe will prove how beneficial your university will be for an undergraduate. You can either place these within your copy body, or create a graphic of the most impressive ones.

Brochures: the basics

Now we’ve discussed the specific elements of university brochure marketing, we’re going to look over the basic brochure techniques to help you create a professional looking product. To start, each page’s headline, subheading and body copy must be clear in content and layout. For example, your headings must be attractive, your text must be descriptive, and your subheadings should act as a bridge that leads the prospective student from the attention-grabbing header to the informative body copy.

Try and abide by the ‘rule of thirds’ when designing your brochure. The ‘rule of thirds’ — both vertically and horizontally — helps designers line-up text boxes and images to create a neater, more professional layout. Luckily, a tri-fold brochure automatically creates a vertical third — just don’t put important information on the folded parts. When it comes to which font type you should use; think smart, consistent and simple (these font styles generally work best in brochures). Limit yourself to two font styles and three font sizes, maximum. Also, don’t embolden or over italicize too much text — this should only be done to emphasise a point. The more often you do it, the less power your words will have.

Brochures that are attractive and easy to digest are the most effective — students want exciting information fast! Don’t bombard your reader with lifeless language, irrelevant statistics and condescending tones. Instead, consider complementary colours, clear layouts, interesting copy, and quality imagery. This is the stage of life when your audience is at its most aspirational, so complement their excitement and show them how your university can help them fulfil those dreams.