CASE STUDY: Differentiation of West Virginia University Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Graduate Program

The challenge: Build messaging around the true points of distinction


The IMC program at West Virginia University (WVU) was the first fully online IMC graduate program. The program quickly grew to be one of the most successful in the nation with graduates holding key marketing communications positions at companies such as:

  • Scripps Network (HGTV, DIY)
  • Thomson Reuters
  • Walt Disney Company
  • World Wrestling Entertainment
  • Coca-Cola Freestyle
  • United Parcel Service (UPS)

Messaging up to this point has been built around "We make leaders in IMC."  This statement was neither unique nor useful since:

  • Any IMC program can make the same claim
  • "Leader" is a subjective term that can imply advancement to C-Suite for those in middle management - a promise that no program can make.
  • C-Suite execs and others in leadership positions may think of themselves as leaders who are not in need of the program.
  • There are no "leadership" courses in the program.




After conversations with the program's recruiter it turns out that the number one question he gets is "What is IMC?" This represents a huge barrier to entrance. 



The Solution:
Explain IMC and showcase our rockstars through the lens of customization

To tighten up our messaging, I led a ZAG-inspired brand differentiation workshop for the team.  During this workshop, a key point of differentiation came out: The program has more electives than any other IMC or Public Relations graduate program and our highest performing alumni occupied positions that placed them at the hub of MARCOM activities for their companies. 

From this point, we moved towards telling stories of how graduates succeeded because they were able to customize their degree to fit their career with three to four electives of their choosing. 

When the audience sees an ad featuring someone like Marisol Vargas and the job title "Manager of International Digital Operations for WWE," "creating leaders" is understood. When they read about how her diverse selection of electives helped her advance in her job, the audience is shown that IMC is a strategy that is built upon an analytical understanding of communication across multiple channels.  We continue telling the customization story on the landing pages for the associated ads:

In addition to these changes, we are testing several call to action options:

  • Enhance Your Career
  • Advance Your Career
  • Customize Your IMC

Currently the "Enhance" messaging leads on Facebook with the highest CTR and second lowest CPM. On Twitter the messages are nearly tied. These findings will be used to inform our marketing communications.