Day two of the 2019 Customer Expo conference, where thought leaders across industries have come to share insights, kicked off with a presentation from Adam Pierno, Associate Vice President of Enterprise Marketing Hub for Arizona State University. Pierno’s presentation focused on how ASU has been building brand affinity with current students and alumni.
Pierno noted that ASU has been named the best school for innovation in the United States for five years running by the US News & World Report. He made a point of the fact that these honors include beating out such prestigious universities as MIT and Stanford. This track record has been a huge point of differentiation for the college.
Even so, Pierno said that building engagement with students, both past and current, has been a challenge. To tackle this challenge, Pierno and his team took a deep dive into student data. They found that 50 percent of the student body ceased to engage with the university after graduation, which was a sobering number.
However, Pierno was also able to segment the remaining 50 percent who did engage into four distinct categories: sports enthusiasts, social butterflies, lifelong learners, and competitive achievers. This segmentation enabled ASU to work out a plan to improve engagement with that 50 percent of graduates who went AWOL after leaving the university. The goal of this plan was to increase their likelihood of recommending ASU to others.
The plan that Pierno and team came up with was based on the idea of personalized communication. They believed that if they could predict the right time to contact a graduate and tailor the content of that communication to that graduate, they could be successful in increasing brand affinity. The segments ASU identified were an absolute necessity to this plan, since a lifelong learner interested in philosophy or literature will be not be affected by the same content that a sports enthusiast will be.
To implement this personalized communication, ASU designed and launched the Sun Devil Rewards app. Sun Devil Rewards gives users (who must be verified current students or alumni) “Pitchforks,” which can be redeemed for awards from sponsors. However, unlike traditional point-based apps, which hand out points in exchange for transactions, Sun Devil Rewards gives Pitchforks for engagement only. Members don’t have to spend any money whatsoever to get the rewards they want. Pierno described the app as “All give, no take.”
Overall, ASU saw a significant uptick in affinity for the university with app users. In addition, after crafting and testing its omnichannel messaging, ASU saw a huge increase in likelihood to recommend with university graduates. Clearly, Pierno and his team have lived up to the moniker given by the US News & World Report: number one in innovation.     

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