Posted by: Jeanne Gosselin
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
Despite reports of demise, the viewbook is not dead
For those of you who believe what they read in higher ed publications that “print is dead”, well, that’s just not true. This may be case in other industries, but when it comes to recruiting students for colleges and universities, the good old viewbook is very much alive and relevant.
For the past few weeks, as we read these articles about the death of print, what we were experiencing with our higher education clients was different. So in the spring of 2012, we conducted an online survey of colleges and universities to get a picture of the effectiveness of print communications in the admissions and enrollment process.
Invitations were sent via email to 3,350 admissions, enrollment and marketing/ communications professionals. Our findings told us print marketing is very much alive and a highly desirable part of communications to both prospective undergraduates and their parents.
• Viewbooks are still being used at the majority of colleges and universities. Half of the colleges we surveyed have also inquired into their effectiveness. And most heard positive responses from both students and parents regarding receiving print communications through the mail. These students and parents said that they enjoyed receiving them, even if they felt bombarded with mail from colleges.
• The large viewbook with 14 or more pages is still most widely used. Just over ¼ of the respondents said they had a small 8-12 page viewbook. While it seems most colleges have a printed viewbook, the majority also have an online version of the book as well. Along with the viewbook, most colleges are pushing out 6 to 15 pieces to their traditional undergraduate prospects.
• There is a direct and beneficial connection between print and online marketing. The call to action in the majority of the print publications gets prospective students to utilize the college’s website. A small percentage are trying to get students to call the college, or visit the college campus. Almost no colleges are using these print communications to drive social media.
• Colleges for the most part send print communications to high school juniors, and continue this through the enrollment process. There are several colleges that start as early as high school sophomores, but very few who start the communication sequence with high school freshman or seniors.
• For the most part budgets for electronic means of communications have either increased or stayed the same. Very few colleges reported that their budgets decreased. With the exception of the viewbook, many of the smaller print communications could be delivered effectively electronically, especially general information postcards.
• More than half of respondents said they were either increasing their print budgets or keeping them the same. However, there appears to be a trend that electronic marketing is cannibalizing print budgets. About one third of respondents said they were cutting their print budgets while a third said they were increasing their electronic means of communications. This is due to the fact that with the exception of the viewbook, colleges believe that many of the smaller print communications can be delivered effectively electronically, especially replacing those general information postcards.)
Not only are the viewbook and print communications still viable, they are a key part of an integrated communications sequence. The fact is electronic communications reach prospective students differently. Even though they can be stored, their appeal is that they are primarily immediate. Print, and in particular viewbooks, has a longer shelf life. What our research has found is electronics has not replaced the tactile gratification that comes from getting mail or the depth that it brings to the communications. Even if they only look at the pictures, you still have a captive audience and a well-composed picture often tells a far more evocative and compelling story than a series of emails.
If you’re interested in getting the details, be sure to download a copy of our full survey report. http://www.psandl.com/download_resources.php