When a slowed economy and increasingly sophisticated competition began to erode Messiah’s formerly robust applicant pool, even generous incentives weren’t doing enough to attract prospects, much less perfect-fit students. More of “the usual” marketing approach–a message that frankly made Messiah sound much like any other academically strong Christian college—wasn’t helping. Prospects and competitors filled in the blanks with their own often inaccurate and uninspired ideas about the college. It was time to answer the question that matters most: “Why Messiah?”
For Messiah, claiming its distinctive identity meant first taking a fresh look at its richly complex heritage, then (re)interpreting what those roots mean to today’s Messiah experience. The Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan traditions that inform the collge’s 21st-century approach don’t just coexist; they interact with one another and ultimately are the driving force behind the transformative college experience Messiah offers. Messiah isn’t simply another Christian college recruiting typical Christian students; Messiah is the Christian college that teaches intellectually curious students how to hold seemingly contradictory ideas in tension and, in the process, to learn to see anew.
Reclaiming the college’s founding values meant embracing tension–not the tension that strains and stresses, but the kind of positive tension that holds together the disparate parts of a balanced whole. Every aspect of the Messiah experience could be seen through this distinctive “tensionfilled” lens. Faith-Intellect, Discipline-Imagination, Wisdom-Expertise, Discovery-Belief, Work-Play: the new marketing messages place these ideas in taut harmony and then invite prospects to “see anew.”
In the CRANE program’s very first year, Messiah College exceeded enrollment goals for new students, honors students, and, for the first time ever, students from under-represented ethnicities. The CRANE process energized staff members to take full ownership of their newly articulated brand, giving them the tools–and more importantly, the mindset–to continually strengthen Messiah’s market position and its standing in the Christian college world.
The CRANE branding process has given us a common hymn book.
director of marketing and public relations