Expedia and how higher-ed can learn from their ads

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Last night I was watching TV with my girlfriend and the commercials came on, and I saw this awesome Expedia ad. It was so simple: it was in a video POV from a smartphone and it was shooting a girl snorkeling underwater alongside a giant turtle. Something you’d probably record if you were on vacation (and hopefully you have a waterproof case or something), or either share on Vine/Instagram.

The ad was about the Expedia mobile app.

Now, Expedia is smart, creative and overall brilliant when it comes to their vacation ad campaigns. But let’s be real… Expedia (and the others, too) are pre-vacation services. The actual act of going on Expedia is not technically part of the vacation… realistically, you’re still at work when you log onto Expedia to plan your trip. They understand that, I think… and strategically skip that part of the vacation process.

They’re looking at the larger picture… the 40,000-foot-view… that Charmander-to-Charizard shit. Expedia offers you a full vacation, essentially, and instead of showing you the process of setting your trip up, they jump to giving you a glimpse of it.

I mentioned in my earlier post about tactics vs. strategy, and how we have to treat it like a story and not a product (the way a business would). Well, Expedia (a business) flipped the script and treated their brand like a story, and not a product. The story being “setting up your vacation is so easy, you won’t even have to think about that… just think about the vacation”. Don’t boggle your mind with the logistics… skip that and go to your fantasy,

Last October, they created a “controversial” ad campaign that revolved around a father taking a trip to see his daughter get married to another woman. Beautifully-shot and emotional… the commercial was more about the story than Expedia. The trip-planning process was pretty much an after-thought, and essentially just a mechanism for the father to get to his daughter’s wedding.

Expedia put the story at the fore-front and did what most brands aren’t willing to do… make their brand secondary to the user experience. Instead of revolving around the actual product, they made it about the external factors revolving around it.

So how does this apply to higher ed? Well today’s prospect is tomorrow’s donor. I read that somewhere… forgot where, but it can be taken two ways:
1) Today’s potential buyer will be tomorrow’s potential giver.
2) Today’s potential student will be tomorrow’s potential alum.

I’m obviously referring to the latter, and it’s in reference to how you view the future student as not only a potential applicant, but also an active student, successful graduate and finally: an active alumni/community member… someone who will take that trip to Homecoming (maybe using Expedia).

The philosophy is to tell the higher-ed story. Which is to show students going apeshit at the football game, or a post-grad alum running their own company. Giving glimpses of the story, and making the brand secondary when telling it.

It’s a risky strategy/philosphy, and not all higher-ups will be down for that. Understandably so, too, since logos and brands are part of the institution’s identity… and so much money is spent on marketing strategy to make the logo the forefront of the story. But, honestly, Expedia is a good reference and, I think, shows the possibility of reward from the risk… especially for a huge company like Expedia.

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