"My cultural identity has been strengthened": how Battenhall drove diversity at Cambridge
Battenhall won ‘Best Social Media Diversity and Inclusivity Program or Initiative’ at The Drum Awards for Social Media in 2021. Its ‘Get in Cambridge’ campaign for the University of Cambridge aimed to reach Pakistani and Bangladeshi students in across the UK, amplifying minority student voices. Here, the team behind the winning entry explains the thinking behind it.
“My perception of Cambridge was that it was all middle-class and white, that it wasn’t somewhere for a little brown girl from Bradford... But I feel like my faith and cultural identity has been strengthened.”
These were the words of student Zainab Haider, who starred in Battenhall’s record-breaking social media campaign for University of Cambridge in August 2020, which helped double the number of applicants to the university from UK Pakistani and Bangladeshi students.
Battenhall was tasked with creating a campaign that would drive interest from UK Pakistani and Bangladeshi students in applying to Cambridge, as despite the progress the university had made in attracting more students from diverse backgrounds, UK Pakistani students represented only 1.3% of new undergraduates in 2019, while UK Bangladeshi students represented only 1.1% of incoming students.
Our strategy was to meet and talk directly to UK Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, amplifying student voices in these minority groups through video content that would be shared on social media. Our target was to increase visits to the university application page among these communities from 5,000 in 2019-20 to 7,000 in 2020-21.
Battenhall was briefed by the University of Cambridge, to create a culturally sensitive social media campaign that would address the underrepresentation of Pakistani and Bangladeshi student applications.
The campaign would need to resonate with Year 12 students from underrepresented groups who never apply to Cambridge or Oxford; parents, guardians, elders; and sixth form heads/teachers at state schools.
- Increase the number applications and admissions
- Increase the number of visits from the target audience to the university applications page online
- Raise brand awareness
- Generate influence through the target audiences, including parents, teachers and influencers
Initial research was conducted by the university, but Battenhall followed up with two focus groups – one with the current Bangladeshi and Pakistani students and another with prospective students at an East London school.
These sessions allowed us to gather authentic experiences and perceptions of prospective and existing students, which helped shape the narrative of the video content.
The key strategy was to let students tell their stories through videos that could be shared across multiple channels. We devised and ran a full-service social media campaign, including video, organic posts and paid social, with the aim of showing a measured change in perceptions among the target audience.
Primary research defined the narratives and creative outputs, while insights around social media and target audience research on social media defined the channels it was distributed on. We used our TalentScout software - a tool that finds influencers and draws connections between different groups on social media – to develop insights and help with targeting of social ads. Social listening also informed the type of content and helped build the relevant audience segments.
The social content and ad campaign was split into two phases in order to use insights gained from the first phase to better target users and amplify the content in the second phase. Phase 1 saw users targeted with the long-form video social content posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat – all key platforms for the youth audience. The shorter ‘myth vs reality’ videos were published on Instagram Stories and showed that UGC content from real students resonates well with a younger audience.
In Phase 2 the strategy was to retarget users on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat who had previously engaged with the phase 1 ads. For Facebook and Instagram, the advertising capabilities meant the audience group also included users who had engaged with other Cambridge University content on the channels.
Cambridge University had never applied social media in such a diverse way before, using Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to amplify and broaden awareness. The content format and the research phase also allowed the brand to tap into authentic experiences that resonated with target audiences.
The two segments to the deliverables (long film plus social cuts, and then the shorter Myths vs Realities social stories) were adapted to work across specific social media channels to gain the biggest reach, and a combination of paid and organic posts were used to reach relevant audiences.
It was also a challenge to ensure the aesthetic of the graphics were aligned with Cambridge guidelines, but at the same time elevated to capture the audience’s attention. Collaboration with Cambridge was key to respect the brand visuals, but also get the students’ message across in an exciting way.
The campaign achieved the following results, breaking all records for the University of Cambridge for this target audience:
Applications from UK Pakistani students rose from 1.3% of new undergraduates in 2019, to 2.8% in 2020.
Applications from UK Bangladeshi students rose from 1.1% of new undergraduates in 2019, to 1.9% in 2020.
The social media series on TikTok and Snapchat generated over 530,000 impressions.
Over 12,000 click-throughs were driven to the university applications page from our target audience - 165% higher than the initial target of 7,000.
By harnessing voices from students and launching an innovative series on Snapchat and TikTok, we drove over 12,000 visits to the website - 165% higher than our target - in addition to 530,000 impressions, all from UK Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.
The end result was that this campaign helped to double the proportion of applications coming from UK Pakistani and Bangladeshi students.
This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Social Media. To find out more, including which competitions are currently open for entry, visit The Drum Awards website.
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