‘Change of preference’ week is a noisy, stressful time for prospective students, with every university in the country clamouring for attention. Rather than join in the ‘pick me’ chorus, we helped Deakin stand out with ‘Mood Machine’; a campaign microsite loaded with reaction GIFs that could be customised, saved and shared across social networks, allowing students to tell the world exactly how they felt in the heat of the moment.
In a single week, almost 4,000 students spent an average of over 10 minutes browsing, creating and sharing their creations with the world.
For Deakin, like all universities, Change of Preference week is crucial.
Universities need to reinforce their position as a great choice for those who have already chosen the uni, while at the same time appealing as a preferred university to students changing their preferences based on their released ATAR score.
Change of preference week is characterised by two things: universities flooding the media with hard sell advertisements trying to recruit students before it’s too late, and students using social media as a place to pour out their emotions, be they happy, sad, confused or indifferent.
Deakin wanted a meaningful way to interact with prospective students over this crucial period. The initiative had to express that Deakin empathised with the overwhelming emotions students were experiencing, and connect with them in their space of comfort - online.
The solution ultimately arrived in the form of a campaign and microsite we named the ATAR Mood Machine. Instead of pitching or hard selling to students, we wanted to show that we understood what that they were going through, and help them express their feelings in a way that was better than they were already doing.
Like all great campaigns, the real success here came from taking an existing behaviour and using technology to make it quicker, easier, more fun and more social. Delving deeper into the research, we also identified that at this time GIFs were by far the most on trend content type, and the most shared type of content within our key demographic of 16 to 22 year olds. For our target demographic, the nature of these animated images is very appealing; they automatically play when opened, they require no sound and they only take a few seconds to watch. Additionally, research showed that GIFs receive over 2x the engagement of static images and memes, making them a clear choice for content.
On the Mood Machine microsite students were presented with a range of emotions from ‘Super Happy’ to ‘Frustrated’ or ‘Devo’ and asked to pick how they were feeling. They were then presented with a collection of GIFs that embodied that feeling, and a range of captions to match. Overall, there were 40 GIFs and dozens of possible captions to choose from, allowing for countless possible combinations.
To build the collection, we trawled the web to find the best and most relatable GIFs that would capture the essence of how the students might be feeling. We also scoured Urban Dictionary to find slang and teen speak that would ensure we were creating something that was speaking in the same language as the students.
The campaign was primarily supported through Deakin’s owned social channels, with 36% of site traffic being driven through Facebook. We also got trusted youth influencer and radio host, Smallzy on board, who tweeted about the campaign throughout the week.
Students loved the Mood Machine, which in just one week racked up almost 4,000 entries and 10,000 page views. On average, Students spent over 10 minutes on the site, browsing through scores of options before making their selection. The campaign as a whole generated over 50,000 engaged minutes during the one week period.
The campaign was a part of a landmark change in Deakin’s strategy, with a renewed focus on understanding the underlying needs of students, and a desire to speak to them in unique, interesting and relatable ways. This focus helped usher in a new era of success, in which Deakin’s market share of first preference choices grew by 27%. For the first time ever, Deakin also secured the #3 spot for first preference Victorian universities.
Mood Machine helped Deakin to stand out amongst the crowd, and offered students a fun and engaging way to express themselves during a highly stressful period.