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According to Merriam-Webster, campaigns are “a series of activities designed to produce a particular result.” Any company, creative, or individual who has been part of a large-scale campaign can understand the amount of work that goes into each step, from the initial brainstorm through execution. There are moving parts and unforeseen contingencies that have to be accounted for, and here at Catalyst, we’ve found what does and does not work over the years as we’ve developed and deployed numerous large- and small-scale campaigns.

In student housing, as properties gear up for their big move in during August, it’s important that the company as a whole stays energized and upbeat — after all, we’re talking about preparing hundreds of units for new residents during the hottest part of summer. There has to be something to look forward to. At Campus Advantage, that something is the annual move-in theme. Properties and corporate team members help to brainstorm theme ideas or concepts and vote on their favorites for something that can be executed throughout the portfolio. Once this year’s theme of “travel” was selected, the journey began to get the campaign off and running.

At Catalyst, we go through a process for large-scale campaigns to make sure we hit everything up front: determine the purpose of the campaign, determine the deliverables of the campaign (emails, banners, social media, and so much more), and begin implementing construction of each piece. We also set benchmarks from the start — what’s going to make this campaign successful, and how are we going to track engagement when the campaign is over? Everything has to be thought of in the big picture, not just the individual items that each property will need to set up to make their move in successful.

Getting ready to start your own campaign journey? Let me give you some “packing tips” on items you won’t want to forget while creating your own campaign:

  • Make sure your theme is applicable to everyone in your target audience. The last thing you want to do is alienate members of your audience because your theme is too obscure or highbrow for everyone to understand the point. Consider locations, geography, demographics, and local culture when developing a national campaign.
  • What is the universal element that ties the campaign together? Perhaps it’s a corporate brand or a piece of inspiration that kicked off the theme. Consider art concepts that will work well with the deliverable formats and help achieve all business objectives.
  • Are you reaching your target audience in a way they can appreciate? As digital media becomes more and more prevalent in everyone’s day-to-day life, your old campaign strategy may not make as much sense. Think about how your audience spends their time and how they best like to be communicated with.
  • Always remember your theme! Make sure you’re staying on theme throughout different media and messaging, while also effectively communicating your message. This year, to tie into our clients’ travel theme, we created passports for residents to use throughout the year as they attend property events. A sign-in sheet may have proved sufficient, but we wanted to give residents something to hold onto that also tied back into the move-in theme.
  • Track your results. The only way you can improve for the next big campaign is learning from your mistakes and your successes. Track engagement and see where the audience really reacted well with a piece, and just as importantly, where you might have had a miss. You’ll want to keep centralized information available for next year’s campaign planning.

Creating campaigns that are well executed and memorable is important and fun, especially in a setting such as student housing where you’re going to still be marketing to (and living with) those residents for an entire year. For a campaign such as move in, you’re setting the stage and, if done correctly, creating a memorable day that the residents are reminded of as the theme subtly carries on throughout the year. A well-executed campaign serves to build your customers’ brand loyalty and your brand’s recognition, and can have positive effects for your company for years to come — make sure you’ve thought through all of the necessary steps before you dive in!