Doubling Graduates in 9

A desire to serve and inspire people from all walks of life has long defined Marian University.

As a mission-driven private Catholic university, their Franciscan—and universal—values show in everyday life on campus and in the Indianapolis community.

This historically allowed them to find prospective students that embraced the culture and identified with the school’s vision. But beyond that, they needed more to raise awareness. They wanted the right students and an increasing number of them.

Marian decided to set a daring, but achievable with the right help and resources, Wildly Important Goal of doubling the number of graduates by 2025. How does a small, private university start on the path of recruiting the desired students that would help them reach and surpass their strategic goal over the course of nine years? Marian needed to stand out in Indiana and as a private institution when the competition for enrollment numbers proved more challenging than ever.

Marian started by partnering with Up&Up to uncover who they were and find out how to share that story with their target audiences. They wanted to combine their deep-rooted history and tradition with a modern approach to adapt to the ever-changing higher education industry. We wanted to work with Marian because of their strong focus on student success and commitment to the greater good–one of our fundamental company values.

Leading with Strategy

To start the process off with a solid foundation, we conducted in-depth qualitative and quantitative research, including multi-audience focus groups and stakeholder interviews to gain perspective on the current state of Marian. This key information gave us the framework needed to explore ideas in the brand strategy phase.

Brand Platform

Following a thorough dive into campus, history, and culture, the strategy work revealed a central theme that clarified and accentuated Marian’s purpose. Born out of the foundational pieces, pillars and positioning, “What are you made of?” became a thoughtful question—and conversation starter—that college-bound and current students ask themselves before, during and after the experience at the university. It also speaks to the values that drive and challenge the existing Marian community to lead and serve other throughout their professional careers and personal lives.
Beyond its immediate application in student recruitment to support Marian’s WIG and raise brand awareness, the question-turned-concept showed flexibility in delivering across all audiences and channels, from academics to athletics to development.

Compelling visuals and exploratory core messaging gave life into execution, which shows in each deliverable.

Brand Activation

Along with high level messaging, Up&Up developed the new look and feel for the Marian brand and created production-ready templates for the viewbook and other print collateral material.

We created banners and other signage on campus that reminded Marian students and visitors to find the strength within themselves. The brand messaging platform also speaks to alumni and the community with a bold sense of pride.

Content Strategy, Production and Activation

A microsite was built to accompany the viewbook and serves as the main landing page for paid media. We also created a multi-channel content strategy to share the new messaging and stories through the website, email, and social media. This helps drive students to Marian at various points in the funnel. At the top of the funnel, a brand video, out-of-home advertisements, and digital display ads were placed in targeted markets to build overall awareness and boost interest. Also, an organic strategy targeted students searching for particular academic programs, while email and social media were used to push out stories and information aimed at increasing yield.

Up&Up helped us define our brand, developed key messaging, and created design templates for the website, an advertising campaign, and print collateral. Their work played a big part in our recruitment success the following year—a record FTFT freshman class that was up 27 percent over the previous year.”

– Mark Apple, Vice President for Marketing Communications, Marian University

The Results

Since the launch of the brand, Marian applications and deposits have increased year over year. More importantly, the SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration) sessions applications rose significantly. The SOAR session historically have produced the highest yield among prospective students.

Overall, Marian earned 12 percent increase in applications over 2017, a 12 percent increase in deposits over 2017 and a 50 percent list in early orientation and registration sessions. Marian also welcomed their largest FTFT freshman class in university history in Fall 2018.

The story continues to unfold as Marian works toward a history-defining 2025–and well beyond.


McPherson, KS


Brand Strategy
Web Experience