MEMS2022 Branding

With this year coming to an extremely frosty finale I know everyone’s social feeds are being inundated with Top of 2022 lists and 2023 predictions (our very own whitepaper is launching soon..). I need to perform a home base slide before the new year and share one final reflection that may not have received enough attention: the 2022 UPCEA MEMs conference. Here are my 2022 UPCEA MEMS Conference Key Insights.

New Orleans View

Held by the wonderful UPCEA organization, this event focuses exclusively on the marketing & enrollment key goal of the brand and I believe required reading for any professional supporting our field of Higher Education. Now let’s travel to the beautiful city of New Orleans and cover a few of my top highlights that I found most valuable and bring the learnings into the new year a little smarter and excited for 2023.


Opening Remarks: Robert Hansen, CEO of UPCEA


  • Conference sold out this year, 500 attendees
  • Marketing must be a holistic enterprise
  • Success has 1,000 authors

The UPCEA 2022 Marketing Study: Reflections, Ramifications, Realities

The Main Event

Review the impactful results of this pace-setting survey, and then dive into ramifications that will address perspectives on how practitioners source talent, how they are investing in tools and technology, and what influences decision-making as institutions continue to increase budgets and expectations for their marketing departments.

  • Jim Fong, UPCEA
  • Bruce Etter, UPCEA
Jim Fong speaking at UPCEA MEMs 2022

key insights graduation cap


  • 2022 Marketing Study results revealed three themes across Higher Education:
    1. Budget
    2. Staffing
    3. Methods & Channels (to reach and connect with target audience)
  • Greatest marketing challenges
    • 33% – Limited budget
    • 21% – Understaffing
    • 13% – Selecting target markets
    • 10% – Competition
    • 8% – Lack of organizational systems
    • 6% – Lack of institutional support
    • 6% – Measuring ROI
  • When the panel section begin the first remark from one of the speakers was “those marketing budgets in the survey all seem low. The team size is unsustainable and scope of work ballooned”
Higher Education Marketing Budget DELTA
Higher Edu Marketing Budget Delta
2022 Higher Education Marketing Challenges
Marketing Challenges
Full Time Positions in your Department
Staffing for Tomorrow
request for information forms
Request for Information Forms

Concurrent Session Highlights //

Cracking the Code with TikTok and Education Marketing

Lafayette East | Marketing | FoundationalThriveDX has cracked the code on leveraging TikTok platform to drive leads and enrollments for our digital skills bootcamps. The success in this channel, isn’t just “TikTok” and silly dances, but also putting strategy and data in the upfront to drive impactful creative. Once our students are in our MQL pipeline, we serve them content that also feeds their interest and curiosity in our programs.

  • Rico Macaraeg, ThriveDX
  • Robert Doherty, Old Dominion University
request for information forms
request for information forms
request for information forms

key insights graduation cap


  • both presenters were fun and engaging, humbly shared the trial and error of their TikTok experience
  • Shared the creative from three iterations of their campaigns, and were candidly honest about lessons and how to improve by focusing on building creative that fits the audience’s context by platform
  • #LearnonTikTok had 292 billion views at the time, which highlights momentum of self driven education
  • TikTok representative said if you take away one thing from today, “Think of platform as ENTERTAINMENT”

My Pick for Best Poster Gallery

Breaking through the noise – Recruiting the right students at the right time

COVID-19 has basically leveled the global planning field of prospective applicants, in that in-person interactions are the exception, rather than the norm. This poster shows how marketers can use digital platforms more intelligently to attract and engage with prospective students, wherever they are on their student journey

  • Dr. Crystal Marull, University of Florida Online
  • Steven Mulligan, Chief Commercial Officer, Studyportals
  • Background: Universities are competing with institutions around the world for the attention of students. The aim, however, is not to be all things to all people. It is to get on and stay on the radars of the right, best-fit students
  • Promote all year round with different messages at each stage of the journey.
  • The average student journey is 15 – 18 months
  • Conclusions:
    • Understand what really differentiates your institution from competitors, and to be authentic in your communications
    • Measure the effectiveness of each touchpoint throughout with focus on the quality of engagements
    • Move messaging forward as the student moves through the different phases of their journey
  • Future Direction: Listen to students and incorporate their feedback
Second Line Reception
Second Line Reception

Key Insights from 2022 MEMs Conference:

  • Current Marketing Budgets are underfunded
    • Applies to both internal team staffing + campaign channel distribution
    • Post-pandemic landscape has become hyper-competitive and requires more investment to engage
    • Scope of work has ballooned in recent years, teams are asked to accomplish more w/ less resources
    • Improve ability to track critical ROI metrics to advocate for greater resources, and retain key staff
    • We need to emphasize people that create enrollments AND nurture the enrollment management streams
  • Power of Database / CRM
    • Can help marketing departments do more with less and aid in tracking (attribution, conversion bottlenecks)
    • marketing generates the lead, it is imperative departments nurture & pursue them
    • CRM export is the key to future-proofing creation of target audiences as privacy restrictions continue across platforms
    • Clean data and broader access across key players needs to be standard practice to accelerate marketing efforts
    • Core data source for building enrollment scoreboard and understanding gaps in student journey
    • Unlocks ability to segment audiences by geography and major to develop brand strategy + degree growth
    • On a call w/ my previous company’s CEO we were asked what we thought would be the most important area of focus and I was called on first (of course), and my answer still hasn’t changed: The CRM’s power and how important clean, easily accessible audience data is the top priority for brands
  • Request for Information / Contact Forms on College Websites too Complex
    • We must invest in and improve the customer experience
    • We need to get more sophisticated and align our marketing efforts to our target markets
    • Opportunity across Higher Edu for optimizing your branding profile across all search engines
    • Importance of secret shopping your website to audit user experience and streamline
    • Best Practice: Request for Information form
      • …has less than 7 questions or fields
      • …asks for inquirer’s name
      • …asks for contact information (email preferable)
      • …asks for program of interest
      • …has space to ask questions
      • …is found in the same place as the program description
    • During UPCEA audit, only 58% of members secret shopped received a response
  • Greatest Marketing Challenges revisited: Building a scoreboard highlighting your brand’s student enrollment goal, application / accepted / enrollment (populated by CRM data source) will provide story needed to solve marketing challenges of selecting target markets, measuring ROI and even building institutional support. Over time the visualization of your data into compelling storytelling could also generate momentum for additional allocation of resources to help limited budgets and understaffing.

There were so many more fantastic sessions I feel remiss for not including, and may do so in the early months of the new year. Until next time, let’s keep learning.

Strategy & Innovation | | + posts

Senior Strategist for Higher Education