Top tips for on-campus ‘cut-through’

‘Cut-through’ is the marketing term for getting your advertising noticed above the ‘noise’ of other marketing.  It becomes particularly relevant in graduate marketing because employers all tend to market to students during the same few weeks of October and early November, making the competition for marketing attention all the more intense.  So if an employer’s advertising is to serve much of a purpose at this time of year, therefore, it needs to stand out from the crowd.  In this blog, we’ve put together our top tips for achieving this:


  1. Credit creative.  It’s worth spending time and perhaps money on making sure the creative executions for your ads are really excellent.  There is a lot of very banal work out there.  Ensuring your advertising is visually arresting can make all the difference.
  2. If you’re running with the herd, stop it.  It’s remarkable how similar the advertising of employers within any one industry can be to one another.  If you have the opportunity to look at what your competitors are doing, check to see if there’s quite a strong common theme, and, if there is, diverge from it.
  3. Try something new.  OK, it’s obvious, but if you can layer in the innovative to your graduate marketing, or even just deploy a fresh twist on an old theme, it can make a world of difference.
  4. Go large.  OTS – opportunities to see – are important.  It may cost you more, but if your message gets seen more often, it’s (arguably) more likely to penetrate.  Going large can also be useful in a more literal sense too – how about a banner the size of a building in the middle of your target campus (we’ve even done that in Poland!)?
  5. Talk to students like you would your clients.  Of course it’s important to address the normal concerns of a potential future employee, but since everyone uses the same ‘opportunity’, ‘diversity’, ‘satisfaction’, ‘interesting work’, ‘rewarding’ buzz-words, it can be difficult to be truly, meaningfully differentiating.  It is easier when it comes to your business, however – your target students will find that equally interesting, if not more so.
  6. Prime the pump.  If you advertise on-campus at other times of year than just the few ‘peak’ weeks – i.e. you take a more year-round approach to your brand presence – not only does advertising at off-peak times of year ipse facto get more cut-through, but you are reducing the requirement of your autumn marketing to work miracles.
  7. Be clear who you want.  Targeted advertising does not mean advertising which is seen only by those you are trying to appeal to.  It also encompasses advertising which, though widely distributed, is clear, on its face, about who is being sought.  If you are looking for a particular kind of applicant, being clear about that within the advertising can be extremely effective, because so much employer marketing is so general.  You needn’t worry about the wastage of your ads being seen by non-target students – peer esteem is an important part of a candidate’s decision to accept your offer.
  8. Be… ahem… sensual!  Remember the five senses? Engage as many of them as you can – an advert or initiative that is highly visual is an obvious thing to aim for, but something students can hear, smell, touch and taste will really command attention (hot food with a physical puzzle game and music, anyone?).
  9. Use multiple channels.  Careers service marketing options are a great place to start – if you’ve only used one of their services before, find out what else they offer.  Beyond that, what about a profile-raising pop-up even in a high-footfall area, or special branded giveaways distributed student-to-student, or even the humble poster [link]?  Facebook?  LinkedIn?  Emphasising and reemphasising your message across multiple marketing channels can maximise its impact.  How many channels are you using?
  10. Influence the influencers.  Is there a particular way you can collaborate with or help a class of academics at your target universities whereby they become powerful advocates for your career opportunities?  Considering who the influencers are in relation to your target audience, and finding a way to work with them so that they support your message, can really enhance its penetration.
  11. Clear voice.  Add a clear call to action to everything (well, within reason) – it will make your communications not only more memorable, but often more measurable too.  Play to the strengths of different media types – there’s no point in having a really wordy poster or a really “thin” brochure.


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