University of Kansas

A double helix of growth

How we helped KU grow a bigger, better freshman class


In 2012, The University of Kansas set an ambitious goal to improve graduation rates by becoming more selective in their admissions criteria. However, a rapid decline in state funding meant that the university actually needed more freshmen to ensure its economic survival. The marketing team was tasked with attracting an unprecedented level of academically qualified freshmen.

Here’s how MBB designed a two-pronged media plan to attract some of the largest and best freshmen classes in KU’s history.


KU needed to become more selective in their admissions while also growing the number of new students admitted into the university. This required a robust strategy to generate and nurture enough qualified applicants to meet both admissions goals.


Since 2012, MBB has run two distinct media campaigns designed to bring more qualified students into the sales funnel.

The first stage is to cast a wide net, primarily targeting high school seniors. The goal is to build an applicant pool that we can begin nurturing between traditional admissions tactics and dynamic online media. During this first effort, some dollars are set aside to market to their centers of influence—parents and counselors.

The second part of the campaign is more dynamic. Through academic profiling, we target the more qualified students based on their areas of interest. Various digital touchpoints ensure they are completing the necessary paperwork relating to admission, financial aid, or housing. The ultimate goal is to get them to commit to the university with a deposit.

Digital Banner Targeting

Digital banners focus on the KU experience. In the first phase, we’re focusing students in relevant KU target areas throughout the state and in markets like Chicago, Dallas, and St. Louis that are known KU hotbeds. In the second phase, we leverage first-party data of accepted students and activate them in a DMP. We then use pixel technology on other users in the database and begin retargeting them based on views.

Paid Social

We utilize social media in both parts of the campaign to drive interest and retarget in social spaces for those who have expressed intent but have not converted.

Content Strategy

To create a compelling message, we plan our content around the factors that are most important to a student. Our aim is to balance both the emotional and rational needs of the student and deliver them in a way that builds on what has been communicated. We utilize A/B testing to generate insights and ensure media dollars are working.


In each of the last five years, the KU freshman class has increased in size and academic success. The 2016-2017 school year produced record-breaking turnout for the university. Also worth noting is that during this time, all other Board of Regents schools experienced on-campus declines.

2016-2017 Freshman Class


straight year of growth


largest class in history


most diverse class in history

Most academically talented class in history

Services Used: Social Media + Media Planning & Buying + Content Marketing & Strategy

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