5 Takeaways from the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education 2018

November 6, 2018 Chris Chilcote

This year’s AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education was easily one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. Set in sunny Orlando, over 1,200 higher education marketers attended this four day whirlwind of content, collaboration, and coffee (lots of coffee).

Here are five trends and takeaways from this year’s conference, brought to you by yours truly and a few of my EDU friends:


We had the great opportunity to speak this year with our partner, Western Colorado University. One thing that resonated in our session was the importance of building a trusted team of partners–specifically, who have a holistic understanding of your internal marketing team’s vision and how to align efforts with other partners to create an omnichannel experience for students. We continuously say at Mogo that “it takes a village,” and it couldn’t be truer when trying to market successfully in the higher education space.

Marketing Communications teams must establish prosperous relationships with their vendors and partners, but also their internal teams; that includes Enrollment/Admissions, Advancement, and other academic program departments. Cross-department communication remains a challenge for most institutions, understandably. Each department is tasked with different initiatives, has limited resources, and often sits in a far away building on campus.

The struggle is real, so I wrote a blog about this very thing–check it out if you are looking to “close the gap.”


Marketing is all about making the best decisions to move the business forward, and the best decision is an informed decision. Numerous moments throughout the conference focused on data usage for marketing purposes. The challenge is that often there is an overwhelming amount of data. Which data points should we focus on as marketers and which do we deem less important? Moreover, what viable data do we actually have available?

From my experience, the best data comes from those who have already said yes (current students) and those who are about to say yes (prospective students). If you are looking to help enrollment, look to your CRM, Google Analytics, and any student databases that you have available to identify trends and similarities to uncover new prospects. Look to your social media channels and web traffic to drive brand awareness decisions to familiarize yourself with your current audience and participate in “social listening.” Knowing your audience is not only crucial for targeting purposes, but also for tailoring your messaging to those audience segments.


Mobile usage continues to dominate, surpassing desktop–an imperative understanding when building any marketing strategy. From prospective student outreach to increase brand awareness, audiences are on the move and mobile friendly. Your website and marketing channel selection should be too. This doesn’t mean to ignore desktop, as we here at Mogo still see a lot of conversions (application submissions) coming from desktop. However, any top of funnel (awareness) marketing should be heavily weighted in mobile.

Additionally, with the heavy usage of GPS enabled mobile devices comes the ability to better reach audiences based on locations–both past and present. During the conference, I had the pleasure of giving quite a few demos of the place targeting platform Factual which we use for our digital marketing campaigns. With this tool, you can build custom audiences by simply selecting locations and timelines. If you’d like to know more about it, feel free to read our blog on place targeting or watch a live demo.


One of my favorite EDU partner’s AMA takeaway was that “video is king” and “authenticity is vital,” which I couldn’t agree with more. Online video content is being digested more and more each passing day, and so are the opportunities to put your message alongside of it. Online video inventory has shot up thanks to the heavy usage increase of OTT, connected TV, and YouTube (the second most used search engine). Yet, most institutions are slow to start marketing in the channel.

This combination of heavy users, open inventory, and low vertical competition screams opportunity. This is a prime place to tell your brand story and do so in an authentic way, or even provide a first hand peek of what a campus visit day looks like. Recently, Mogo and Google held a video summit at Google’s San Francisco office where we discussed the state of programmatic video, providing great insights and ideas for our partners.


It’s no surprise that there was a lot of talk about the undergrad audience, Generation Z. Generation Z consists of those born in 1995 or later and accounts for over a quarter of the United States population. The shift from Millennial to Gen Z may appear subtle to some marketers, but there are some key differences (as pointed out by this Huffington Post article).

One of these differences is that Gen Z engages with technology a little differently than Millennials. For example, Gen Zers are avid users of story-based social media platforms like Snapchat and Facebook/Instagram Stories. Their attention is short, so they are happily digesting content in snippets. So the question is, are you implementing this information to both your messaging and media buying? The answer: you should be.

We had a great time in Orlando at the 2018 AMA HigherEd. It was great catching up with existing partners, meeting new faces and having the chance to listen to some really great speakers. We are especially grateful for those who attended our breakout session, Thinking About Digital Through a Student’s Lens: Building an Omni-Channel Strategy for a Seamless Experience, where we co-presented with the wonderful Sarah Higgins from Western Colorado University. If you missed it, you can check out our deck here. Hope to see everyone next year in Las Vegas!

If you’d like to discuss more on these topics, or anything and everything Higher Ed related, reach out to me at chrisc@mogointeractive.com.

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