CMU reviews marketing allocation, claims ‘Stamp’ campaign to be a success


Faced with an ongoing battle for revenue from tuition money, Central Michigan University spent about $300,000 more than appropriated on marketing campaign expenditures.

According to a document provided by University Communications, the “Put Stamp on the World” campaign cost $745,455 from March 1 to May 31, 2015.

Sherry Knight, associate vice president for University Communications, said in addition to the Stamp campaign, $654,697 was spent on marketing in fall 2014.

Combining the fall marketing and the Stamp campaign, CMU spent about $1.4 million on marketing campaign expenditures. The operating budget allocates $1.1 million for University campaign marketing expenditures.

“(When you have a new campaign) You go out heavy to have that first major impact,” Knight said.

Since an enrollment begin to decline after its peak in 2010, CMU has focused more attention and money towards marketing.

Knight says the allocated $1.1 million doesn’t pay for promotional material given to high schools students at events such as “CMU and You Day.”

CMU’s Global Campus also has its own marketing budget and orchestrated by a different department.

CMU’s marketing and enrollment history

While the budget allocation for marketing has not changed in several years, the amount of that allocation being spent has increased dramatically.

In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which was before Knight began her position at CMU, the university only spent $41,721 on marketing campaigns. By the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the University was spending around $923,108.70.

According to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, Michigan high school enrollment is expected to decline by 19 percent from 2008-2009 to 2019-2020.  

Sherry Knight, associate vice president for University Communications.
Sherry Knight, associate vice president for University Communications.

Knight says it’s necessary for CMU to heavily market due to the decline in high school enrollment.

“Competition for students is intense among universities, in a way that did not exist five years ago,” Knight said in an email.

CMU peaked in enrollment in 2010 with 19,368 on-campus undergraduates. Last academic year had 17,764 on-campus undergraduates, an 8.2 percent reduction since 2010.

However, overall enrollment did increase from the 2012-2013 to the 2014-2015 academic year.

At CMU President George Ross’ State of the University address last year, he talked about enrollment concerns for the university.

He noted enrollment at CMU could be as low as 17,500 by 2020, which he said could lead to a loss of $50 million in revenue.

“Personally, I’m not OK with on-campus enrollment declining,” Ross said at the event. “I don’t care what the predictions are. We’re capable of maintaining a 20,000 student enrollment.”

During the June 23 Board of Trustees meeting, Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Steven Johnson talked about the need to attract out-of-state students. 

“We’ve always attracted a phenomenal number of students from Illinois,” Johnson said at the meeting. “We’ve increased our presence in those areas through participation in admission events. We’re doing more high school visits in those areas because we’ve never done that on a regular basis because all of our students have come from Michigan.”

In 2005, only 78 new freshmen were from out-of-state. In 2014, there were 188.

CMU also doubled the number of international students from 2012 to 2014. In 2012, CMU had 563 international students, in 2014 the university had 1,064.

Despite the university hoping to attract out-of-state students, most of the “Stamp campaign” focus areas were in Michigan.

Knight says that a vast majority of CMU students come from Michigan, so much of the marketing is still focused in the state.

“It’s a huge market for us, and it will always be a huge market for us,” Knight said.

She said marketing outside of the state can be very expensive, so it has to be done strategically.

Takeaways from “Stamp”

Knight said the “Stamp” campaign lead to nearly 97,000 clicks on Pandora, Spotify, Vevo, Hulu and YouTube.

She also said that TV spots and billboards generated millions of impressions.

Knight says many graduates have commented the “Stamp” campaign made them proud to be Chippewas.

“That’s huge for us because it affects recruitment and retention,” Knight said. “It impacts that sense of community that is so much a part of us.”

The number of users and sessions on increased by 40 percent. CMU’s academic program page views also increased by 345 percent.

“I’m hearing more and more people say ‘you know what, we are not the University of Michigan or Michigan State, and we don’t want to be,'” Knight said. “We are special because we have that sense of community they can’t have because they are so large.”

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