Marketing Featured ANZ

Digital marketing in Australia’s higher education lagging behind: report

Australia – The trials of 2020 and 2021 were eye-opening for digital marketers in higher education. The pandemic not only increased reliance on digital channels and made online education essential, it made a generation of digital natives – somehow – even savvier. 

It’s within this context that Siteimprove launched the ‘2022 Australian Higher Education Digital Marketers Survey’. The study explores recent trends in Australian higher education and how those trends have impacted digital marketing strategies. 

How digital transformation went from nice-to-have to need-to-have

Across industries, the pandemic was a tipping point for digital transformation. Without traditional in-person workflows, the rate of digital innovation skyrocketed. 

Last year emphasised the need for higher ed marketers to create an optimised digital presence to reach and influence key audiences. A pre-pandemic report found that 90% of incoming students were concerned about having a consistent digital experience from their university. Though some Australian universities are further along than others, the vast majority just aren’t where they need to be in their digital transformation. 

The findings of the Siteimprove survey reflect a sector in transition:

  • More than 90% of Australian higher ed digital marketers believe they’re investing in and building digital elements for their institution.
  • But when it comes to integration of those elements, marketers are less confident. Zero respondents said their digital elements are fully integrated across the institution, let alone being used to drive and evaluate marketing decisions.
  • The good news is that more than half (60%) expect increased marketing investment into their institution’s website in 2022. Search efforts, site optimization, A/B testing, and digital media are expected to claim the lion’s share. 

Turning a higher education website into a core marketing tool

The modern components of digital marketing success (like SEO, SEM, and content quality and efficiency) have only become more crucial throughout this period. Looking back at 2021, respondents to the survey ranked content, website QA, and SEO as the top three most important efforts for improving their institution’s website performance for that year. And 80% of respondents expect web accessibility to be a priority for their institution in 2022. 

Without the ability to connect with students and donors as they used to, digital marketers in higher education are now fully aware just how important these factors are. Alongside pandemic-related restrictions, changing web demographics, and a digitally native target audience, institutions need to re-envision how they reach their desired population – before they ever visit campus. 

Marketing spend under the microscope 

Website analytics are at the heart of an effective digital marketing strategy. Unfortunately, most web analytics tools make it difficult to get the whole picture of your website’s performance, accessibility, and effectiveness. 

That’s a problem for 78% of survey respondents, who said they felt more pressure to prove the impact of their marketing efforts on their institution’s website performance in 2021. Connecting the dots between marketing ROI and website performance is easier said than done. 

“Even though survey respondents felt confident in tracking their site’s performance, they were less sure of the impact their marketing activities had on that performance,” noted Siteimprove. 

In 2020, Loyola saw a 149% increase in organic search and a 165% increase in direct traffic to their website after launching the Siteimprove platform. Actionable data helped them to fill content gaps, optimise content, and better address the questions students had when they visited the site. And all the while, measuring the impact their changes had on ongoing website performance and ROI. 

Using Siteimprove, Harvard Extension School reduced broken links by 81% across its three sites, all of which provide information to prospective and current students. The information they got from Siteimprove helped them draw connections between content quality, content efficiency, accessibility, site health, and search performance to provide a consistent user experience. 

How higher education digital marketers can get more from their websites and content

Analysing the survey results, the Siteimprove team came to three broad considerations for improving higher education website performance. And it all comes down to content: 

  • Content efficiency
  • Content creation
  • Content quality

After these past two years of change, digital marketing success for higher ed won’t only require more content. It’ll depend on the ability to audit and optimize existing content, create new content faster, and align website content with search intent. Identifying benchmarks, setting goals, and tying optimisation efforts to website revenue will be marketers’ strongest tools in executing their digital transformations. 

To make the most of the opportunities presented by digital transformation, higher education organizations will need to carefully consider what role each of their digital marketing investments plays in creating an optimised digital experience. 


Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

MARKETECH Mondays feat. Singapore Institute of Technology’s deputy director for corporate communications, Royson Poh

For this episode of MARKETECH Mondays, our feature showcasing marketing leaders’ career journey to inspire the next generation of marketers, we sat down with Royson Poh, the deputy director for corporate communications of the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). Royson has held the position since 2018 and no one would have imagined that with such an esteemed role in communications, Royson actually had his start as a credit analyst at a credit bureau.

The turning point was when within the said analyst job, a supervisor had challenged Royson to take on a responsibility meant for sales which became the spark for him to transition beyond his initial chosen profession. 

Since then, Royson forayed to roles in business development, and for his very first marketing position, he managed the advocacy & outreach efforts of the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) in Singapore. Today at SIT, Royson helms the corporate communications department where he watches over the university’s brand research, web, and social media efforts.

Watch the full interview with Royson on our YouTube channel

Royson’s very first campaign

Royson cut his teeth in campaign management when he was working at SPD. His very first campaign was a national IT literacy program for persons with disabilities with Singapore’s Infocomm Accessibility Centre. 

The campaign’s objective was to drive awareness and registrations for the said national IT training program. Royson shares that this was right at the point where Facebook had just become part of the marketing mix. 

I recall creating my own FB account, testing posts, and figuring out how I could use Facebook to achieve my campaign objectives.

On first marketing campaign

Fast forward to today where digital is now held at a premium, Royson’s leadership at SIT includes heading the school’s web communications and social media efforts. Royson shares in the MARKETECH Mondays interview that he sees his current role as becoming an advocate for digital media, serving as the middle man between on-the-ground social media specialists and senior management. 

“The leadership of the university is typically [going to] be a little bit more senior, [and] they may not be that familiar with social media and digital channels; so for me, I am the middle man working with the folks on the ground who know the channel and the technology [as well as] the agencies who are the specialists, and then kind [of] lobbying for that support or rationalizing with management and getting the buy-in,” shared Royson.

Royson entered SIT in 2014 and was first the assistant director for corporate communications prior to being elevated to the deputy director role. As assistant director, Royson was already responsible for the university’s online branding, communications, and reputation across web and social media. Meanwhile, rising through the ranks, the higher directorial position had him delivering the university’s first digital-led brand campaign which was conceptualized to address specific insights from brand research.

How a banking background helped Royson transition to marketing 

Royson admits that although quite distant, having had his beginning as a credit analyst served as a big help in helping him understand the demands of a marketing job, which has now grown to include data, analytics, and measurement at its heart. 

“[Like] many students, I studied what I was good at, and I was good with numbers. And so I took a banking major, and started working in the finance industry,” shared Royson. 

Obviously now speaking with more expertise and deep insight into the industry, Royson said that while marketing used to be a very subjective field, data has now become a very important part of marketing now involving analytics, web traffic, and social media metrics. 

I think for the young people who are entering the industry and the digital age, they will never realize that marketing used to be a very subjective field. You had a lot of creative types, people working with designs…but that has slowly gone away. I mean that is still a skill set that you need, but data has become very very important.

On how marketing has moved from being subjective to being data-driven

As deputy director for SIT, Royson actually developed a brand management framework alongside producing the first quantitative measure of the university’s brand equity.

Royson said, “The numbers part of the work has really helped me. I see a lot of common skillsets [between] finance [and] marketing especially in the area of data analytics to be able to digest and look at numbers and direct marketing efforts from there. That has been a common thread across my career,” said Royson.

On leadership: “Everyone needs a sense of role and purpose in the team.”

Entering SIT in 2014, Royson was assistant director for corporate communications for four years, where in 2018, he was appointed to his current role of deputy director. 

As a marketing leader, Royson strongly believes in entrusting a team member a specific role by which the person can grow with and eventually gain mastery of.

Everyone needs a sense of role and purpose in the team. They need to come to work knowing that ‘everyone is counting on me’ for this part of the work.

On leadership

Royson compares his preferred approach to the usual rotational work setup. He shares that while this is the way to be in many creative setups, where there is a ‘special assignment’ method and people get assigned to projects, he still believes in the positive result of charging someone a focused role.

“I think that if someone knows what they’re uniquely good at, and they have been entrusted that role, they will come back to work every day [having] a purpose, and they’re motivated.”

Royson adds, “My approach to leadership is really to be very clear about responsibilities, creating roles for individuals, trusting them to do it well, and encouraging them to give them that sense of purpose and that belonging in the team.”

For the new generation of marketers: Keep learning and re-learning 

As a marketer part of the generation that was at the cusp of traditional and digital marketing, Royson shares that it’s very important to never stop learning and to add to one’s experience and knowledge as this is the way to be at par with the ever-evolving industry of marketing. 

It’s very important to have this ability to keep learning and re-learning amid fast-evolving technological advancements in marketing.

On advice for budding marketers

Aside from this overarching view on marketing, Royson also shares his advice on dealing with day to day challenges of the job.

He shared that throughout his career, he learned that sometimes, there is a need to be able to say no and to be able to do that in a professional and mature way, and in a way that delivers value to the organization.

“The biggest challenge of my career is learning how to analyze something critically and having that skill to be able to deliver [an opinon] in a professional and non-confrontational way that would help to complete the final product.”

Royson said that in marketing, it’s important to find a way to express diverse opinions in order to successfully co-create as a team.

Also, his very simple advice, but one that’s equally crucial in the cutthroat world of marketing: becoming your biggest ally and supporter. 

“We face a lot of criticisms in a marketing profession so it’s important to be your biggest supporter and all,” he said.

Ultimately, Royson to the aspiring marketers, “You will never know everything that you need to know [in marketing], you just have to keep figuring it out as you go along.”

Listen to the full podcast of the interview with Royson on Spotify:

Main Feature Marketing Partners APAC

MARKETECH Mondays feat. PSB Academy’s assistant VP for marketing, Jovan Lin

A veteran of the education industry, we sat down with Jovan Lin, the current assistant vice president for marketing of PSB Academy, to get to know more about the career journey and the leadership of a marketing head in the higher education sector.

Jovan may have spent more than a decade in the industry, but one wouldn’t imagine where he actually began his professional career – in construction. Through a combination of having the right opportunity and making the best of it, Jovan’s career in marketing soon took off. 

He started out as a student recruitment officer and a sales manager for academies that focused on providing IT and psychology education respectively. His transition was something of a slow but sure process, where he gradually took on marketing functions before fully foraying as a marketer. 

Watch the full interview with Jovan on our YouTube channel

From managing projects in construction to crafting campaigns

Recalling his days in the construction line as his first step into the professional world, he shares that at the time, he had to drive the company’s lorry to fetch workers to sites and coordinate tasks under the sun and the rain, and this is all the while attending his part-time degree classes all sweaty and smelly. 

It was until Jovan got the opportunity to enter the education industry that he realized it’s the job fit that determines if you can attain some level of success. 

From recruitment and sales roles, he gradually went on to becoming a full-fledged marketing manager at Kaplan Singapore. Before finally landing his position at PSB Academy Jovan had also become the head of product marketing of Management Development Institute of Singapore. 

Jovan shared that more than anything, his initial stages in sales as a recruitment officer are what laid the foundation for him to become the marketer he is today. For him, his biggest mentor had been the marketing director that helped him fully realize his marketer role, Emily Han. 

“I was there on the ground talking to prospective students, their parents, and that’s where I had the common understanding of what [the needs], the [desires], and wants of prospective students [are]. I think that really helped me in my campaigns and try to create content that really resonates with [the] target audience,” said Jovan in the MARKETECH Mondays interview.

The crucial moment [in my career] was my ex-boss who took a risk on me to take me into a full-fledged marketing role, so that really transformed my career to which I’m fortunate to stick by.

On his mentor Emily Han

Jovan remembers the campaign that really had an impact on him during the early years of his marketing career, making him realize how far he is from the knowledge and skills needed for the job. 

Jovan had to create an online lead generation campaign and went through the usual process of working with a creative agency to develop the assets and creating the campaign brief. When the ads were launched and when he was served the ad on Google network and was beaming with joy as he shared it with his boss. 

Interestingly, Jovan shared what happened next, “She replied, good work but you probably [have] seen it because you were retargeted! After which I thought, why should I be seeing this ad when I am not even considered a relevant target audience for this course?” 

Since then, through this quite naive experience, Jovan began to explore deeper the context of performance marketing, things such as creating audience lists for exclusion, and also relying on first-party data to create more relevant reach.

“I wouldn’t say this is the first campaign, but it is one that I still laughed at myself, but it is sort of an important milestone that shaped my principles and beliefs on marketing,” said Jovan.

As a marketing leader: “I have to trust myself in order for me trust my colleagues”

As the current assistant vice president for marketing at PSB Academy, Jovan oversees the full marketing and implementing strategies that align with the business direction. 

As a leader, Jovan’s main philosophy is putting trust in the team. Jovan believes that at the end of the day, everyone makes mistakes and that working harmoniously among the team means succeeding and learning from mistakes together.

I have to trust myself obviously in order for me to know and translate that trust to my colleagues.

On leadership

Jovan’s definition of successes and failures also evolved as he grew both in life and career. He speaks of metrics for success, and how these have gradually changed from something tangible such as target number of leads and then slowly changing to subsequent metrics such as quality of said leads as he gains more knowledge and skill set. 

But Jovan says that as you grow with times, you’ll find that they are indeed important measures that define the level of business success, but that there is also a much more valuable impact amid marketing to students, one that is slightly less tangible. 

“What matters to me right now is what [social] impact I can deliver to my peers, my colleagues, and even to a certain extent, the students,” said Jovan.

He adds, “When you see certain students going through the education system, and [until] they [graduate], you kinda feel there is this self-achievement, and [you think], there must have been certain things you’ve done in marketing that influenced that choice.”

Jovan on pandemic-induced shifts: a time to shape the future of education

With the education industry worldwide taking a hit from the drastic changes brought by the pandemic, Jovan believes that the biggest question of all is what would the future of education now look like. 

Will online classes now be the norm? Shall students go back to the traditional face-to-face classes when nations recover, or must it be hybrid now? 

The challenge right now for every educational institution is how to look beyond this pandemic for the future of education.

On the challenge of higher education institutions amid the pandemic

He also emphasizes that digital today is seeing great transformation taking in all forms and shapes and at a very fast speed due to the pandemic. 

Jovan believes that we may not have all the answers right, but it also spells an exciting time to redefine the future of education.

“We are in an exciting [time] as I see this period as the moment that may shape the future of education.” 

Jovan to aspiring marketers: “Marketing is forever changing”

With more than a decade of experience under his belt, Jovan has some advice for those who wish to enter and succeed in the marketing industry, and he breaks them into two: marketing as a profession and marketing as an attitude. 

First and foremost, he puts out the most important truth of all, and what serves as the umbrella for all relevant principles in the profession, and that is “Marketing is forever changing.” 

As a profession, Jovan says that data is now the name of the game. A lot of technological advancements have emerged when the digital age saw its birth, and now, long gone are the days of who has the biggest print ad or newspaper ad. 

“Obviously with more tools, data plays a very important role and as marketers, we need to be data-savvy, we need to be able to make sense of data, [and] this is a critical skill set that marketers should invest in,” says Jovan. 

However, with more and more platforms, tools, and solutions made available for advertisers, it is easy to get into the trap of chasing one’s own tail because you would want to chase the next big thing in marketing. With this, Jovan says it’s important to not lose sight of the fundamental principles of marketing, and that is placing the consumer at the heart of your strategy and making sure content is developed with their specific needs and behavior in mind. 

At the end of the day, marketing is really about engaging your audience or customers. Whatever we do, we have to place them at the heart of all things.

On his advice to aspiring marketers

Jovan adds, “Just ask yourself, what do you think your audience wants to see or read or hear, and then from then on, how do you actually create a journey and experience you feel that your audience would be able to engage and enjoy.” 

Now when it comes to attitude, Jovan admits that he himself has not maintained a positive mindset consistently for the past 10 years of being a marketer. 

He says what’s important is “possessing the right attitude to allow you to approach your work the right way.”

Being a marketer is a journey, you [will be] [experiencing] ups and downs. Nobody can win all the time, and when you fail, I think that is when you learn.

Jovan says to those who wish to enter and make a name in marketing

Ultimately he says, “Continuously be open to critics because they will never go away, be open to suggestions as well, and continue to work hard and smart.”

Listen to the full podcast of the interview with Jovan on Spotify:

This interview was done in partnership with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering their teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth. 

Main Feature Marketing Partners APAC

MARKETECH Mondays feat. AIB’s marketing director, Stephanie George

When a dialogue on marketing is sparked, the industry against the education sector isn’t always top-of-mind, hence, doesn’t always get that much attention due to its non-mainstream dynamics – with students as the ‘consumers’, and with the product, not just a purchase that could be merely classified as either a high- or low-involvement decision, but rather, education and a person’s shot at his or her future. 

We are pleased for the second time to be able to get to know the career and leadership journey of one marketing leader from the education space – the marketing director of one of Australia’s largest online MBA providers, the Australian Institute of Business (AIB)Stephanie George.

Stephanie is a marketing veteran having had more than a decade of marketing experience under her belt. As AIB’s marketing director since 2018, she helms the entire marketing function of the institute which encloses strategy, execution, measurement, and analysis both in Australia and the school’s global markets. 

Just like any first steps into a long journey ahead, Stephanie’s beginnings weren’t perfect and were marked with uncertainty. In the MARKETECH Mondays interview, Stephanie bared that she had her eyes initially set on becoming an accountant, something that she simply realized “wasn’t for me.” Thankfully, her foray into marketing – a marketing coordinator role in a tile company – way back in 2007 was a big break in disguise, affording doe-eyed Stephanie a first immersion into the job, that would later have her managing a TV commercial project and a big rebrand. 

Watch the full interview with Stephanie on our YouTube channel

The career journey into becoming the Marketing Director in AIB

Before landing her esteemed role in the education space, Stephanie polished her marketing prowess by managing the marketing of companies from various verticals. She’s become part of the marketing departments of companies HBO + EMTB, Liift, and Devine, which fall under the interior design, IT, and civil engineering industries, respectively. 

Her most recent role before her position at AIB was as the marketing manager for digital acquisition at Optus, which is one of the largest telecommunications companies in Australia providing mobile, telephony, internet, satellite, entertainment, and business network services. At Optus, she was responsible for the acquisition marketing of both the consumer broadband and the small & medium business (SMB) broadband categories.

Presently as the marketing director in AIB, she leads a team that executes all of the in-house digital execution, customer marketing, and campaigns delivery for the institute. At the MARKETECH Mondays interview, we went back to where it all started and asked the veteran what it felt like to be a first-time marketer. 

I actually thrive in an environment where we’re going at a fast pace, and trying things and learning on the go. I just kinda throw myself into it.

Stephanie on dealing with the industry for the first time

Stephanie took her first step into the marketing journey as a marketing coordinator for tile company Italia Ceramics in 2007. At Italia, she managed marketing campaigns across all media channels such as press, TV, radio, and online as well as in print. At this time, Stephanie had also been part of the brand’s rebranding and new brand execution. 

Stephanie reveals, “This was back when social wasn’t really a thing, and digital marketing wasn’t really a thing. At my time there, I was fortunate that we went through a whole rebrand.”

Stephanie shared that she’s always been the type of person who likes playing in the unknown and observing people that know more than her. 

“With the rebrand comes [recreating] all of the marketing collateral…and I was really lucky to be able to do all of that activity from the get go.”

The best thing about being a marketer: Delivering a product that has an impact on people’s lives 

As the marketing director of the graduate institution, Stephanie shared that the biggest challenge is convincing people of a product that does not only require a financial investment, but a significant investment of people’s time – something that is quite distant from the previous marketing she’s led where products were “household decisions.” But despite this, the reward still outweighs the said challenge, which is being able to help people be closer to a product that would genuinely have a positive impact on their lives. 

Stephanie emphasizes that when somebody chooses to study for a master’s degree, they usually choose to do it on top of full-time work, alongside family commitment, and usually at a time of their lives when they’re juggling a lot of other responsibilities.

“Helping people make the commitment and take the plunge or the decision that they’ve probably been thinking about doing for a while, I mean that can be a bit challenging sometimes,” she said. 

But Stephanie said the effort is worth it as they get to celebrate milestones with their students, whether it’s “completing their first subject, or hitting the halfway mark, or completing their masters in business.”

Being part of that experience in people’s lives, [it’s just] a really special moment and it’s a privilege really to be part of that after all the hard work that they put in.

Stephanie on marketing MBA as a ‘product’

Stephanie admitted that throughout her decade-long journey in the industry, her biggest mentor has always been her dad, who wasn’t even a marketer at all. 

The ‘mentorship’ was just sort of an accident when while growing up, she would always hear her dad, who entered entrepreneurship post-navy, introducing himself as someone who did sales and marketing. That stuck into young Stephanie, and grew up wanting to do the ‘same thing’. 

“I’m not saving lives but I’m doing sales and marketing,” said Stephanie.

I think the thing that I particularly love though about sales and marketing is just the stories that you get to tell, and then you get to fill things in people’s lives, such as encouraging someone to enroll in an MBA, or whether it’s encouraging someone to order a broadband plan.

As a leader: “keep an open mind that you’re constantly learning.” 

Stephanie’s leadership in AIB started in 2018. She said that the kind of leader that she is today is not only because of the ‘great’ leaders she’s met, but also the ‘bad’ ones. 

“I may not [always have] great leaders, but I still learn from those [bad] leaders, sometimes it’s about what not to do. More often than not, I learn from the great leaders, and still, everything I do [is] from the great leaders, and the leadership they’ve had over the years and continue to have,” shared Stephanie. 

Stephanie said that leadership is something that she doesn’t take lightly at all, as being in such position means you are in a crucial place of having the power to influence the people around you. At the same time, leadership for Stephanie is something that must be sharpened through time. 

It’s the type of thing [where] you’re constantly going to be learning [how] to be better. If you keep an open mind that you’re constantly learning, I think that’s an important thing to do.

Stephanie on leadership

Advice for budding marketers: “If an opportunity presents [itself], go after it.”

Stephanie believes that there really isn’t such a thing as failure. She’s always applied the view that opportunities must be grabbed, and with this go-getter attitude, she knows failures are inevitable. 

“On my point of view, I’ve always [taken] the approach that if an opportunity presents itself, go after it. With that comes the risk of failing at it, or not doing a great job.”

And this same philosophy is what she hopes aspiring marketers to carry – to not be afraid of challenges and to bravely own the multitude of opportunities before you as one is only able to figure out the ‘perfect’ opportunity and hone their expertise as they go along. 

[From] one opportunity, another one presents itself, and then another one, and you’ll be surprised [what] you end up doing

Most importantly, she advises, “It doesn’t matter if you’re the newest person on the team, if you’re the youngest [or] the oldest, or if you’re the least experienced, or the most experienced; if you ever have an idea, don’t question whether it’s a good idea; I think you should always bring those ideas forward.”

Listen to the full podcast of the interview with Stephanie on Spotify:

This interview was done in partnership with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering their teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth. 

Main Feature Marketing Partners APAC

MARKETECH Mondays: Neil Cullingford, Director of Marketing and Communications, Murdoch University

In the latest episode of MARKETECH Mondays, we chatted for the very first time with a marketing leader in the education space – Neil Cullingford – the current director of marketing and communications of Murdoch University, the Australian-based public university in Perth. 

With this, we aim to bring greater attention to the dynamics of marketing and branding in higher education, and most especially, what strategies are becoming the trend in the industry now that it has become one of the hardest hit this pandemic, shifting students and all stakeholders to navigate virtually. 

Currently, as the lead of marketing at Murdoch, Neil is mainly responsible for the brand, marketing, and strategic communications strategies of the university, to build its reputation and future growth. Within Murdoch, he’s had quite a journey rising through the ranks, starting out as an associate director, and eventually landing his current position. Before we dive further into Neil’s inspirational successes, let’s first get to know his humble beginnings. 

The journalism major that soon became a marketer

Neil in fact started his professional career in publishing. He was a graduate of Journalism, Film & Broadcasting at the University of Wales in London, and therefore started his career in the UK capital.

While not entirely related to marketing, Neil had his jumpstart in managing campaigns through a small publishing company called Quest Media. His first-ever was a B2B campaign with the target to drive subscriptions to a magazine. Neil shared how very different it was back then: direct marketing, sales letters, flyers, and call-to-action campaigns, and even going as old school as involving fax numbers. 

I learned a lot there, and I still carry lessons with me that is about the importance of having good data, [and] also knowing your audience. While it didn’t go as I hoped, [and] didn’t get many subscriptions [at the time], what that did is kind of improve myself as a marketer and also how [I] perform in future campaigns.

Neil in the MARKETECH Mondays Interview 

Neil shared that most of all, the important thing is that Quest Media was an entrepreneurial company, where in such an environment, he was given the opportunity to work with other marketers and learn his trade. 

From there, Neil started venturing to become a marketer of bigger brands such as market intelligence Centaur. He also became a brand and marketing manager at B2B events firm United Business Media (UBM), and most recently at electrical company Western Power, before stepping into Murdoch University. 

Great success: Increasing student numbers

Each industry in marketing is different and goes with that is the uniqueness of what it means to call a branding and marketing endeavor a success. For Neil at the university, it has always been about working with ambitious and determined students. 

What I really enjoyed about working in Murdoch is the audience – we get to work with high school kids going into university, using the breadth of channels, and that is from commercials to delivering campaigns and then performance marketing

Neil entered Murdoch University in 2016 as an associate director, and shortly after that, assumed the role of acting director. Within 6 months of entering the university’s team, Neil was given the big opportunity to lead as director following the incumbent’s leaving. 

I took that opportunity to really draw [out] what I felt were the important things the university needed to do at the time. The experience has been really beneficial for me in terms of my development as a person but also as a professional. It’s taught me [to become the] determined and persistent [person that] I am. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from working in academics and the importance of that when you have your research, you gotta be spot on with that.

According to Neil, when he entered the university, the student numbers were in a decline, and so to name a great success within his journey, without a doubt, would be being able to lead the marketing team to increase the market share of Murdoch University. 

“It’s a massive achievement for anybody. [To think] [that it’s a] very mature market, a disruptive market, and with some very strong local brands in terms of the universities here [in Australia], [and then] to see that growth and come back from the decline, so we’re very proud of it,” added Neil  

One top achievement that Neil also cited is the recent rebranding of Murdoch University. It was unveiled in May, coinciding with its 50th anniversary, and was executed with the aim to better represent the University’s vision of a modern institution. According to a statement from the university, the revamp supports the university’s goal to be recognized as a world-changing university by Western Australians as well as national and international communities.

Leadership: “I believe I am someone who brings people and ideas together.”

Within almost 20 years in the industry, Neil started his leadership journey when he became a marketing manager for United Business Media. From there, he took on roles of brand and marketing manager and consultant at Western Power, and presently as Murdoch University’s director for marketing. 

Neil said that as a leader, he is someone who brings people and ideas together, and strives to be a leader that drives change, and is committed to growing himself and those around him.

“You can’t achieve anything alone so it’s really important to work with others in a positive way in which everyone sees the benefit,” Neil said. 

“First of all, I am myself. Being authentic is critical. I surround myself with talented people who share my values. I also believe that as a leader my role is to join the dots and see the opportunities ahead,” he added. 

Marketing strategies for higher education

When we asked Neil what the biggest challenge higher education is facing now, he said that international student mobility is the imminent and obvious one. Adding to that, he said one of the challenges is demonstrating to students both local and international the value and relevance of university education. 

With this, here are his go-to strategies as best response: 

  • Have a brand strategy that is a platform to differentiate and relate to both current and future students. 
  • Higher education institutions must challenge traditional notions of education and be prepared to adapt their educational offerings to meet the needs and expectations of students. 

I think the biggest challenge in a university sector that is well-established is how do you keep pushing the boundaries, how do you stay relevant to your customers and stakeholders, and everybody that you want to connect with. And that kind of takes me back to looking at the brand and understanding within yourself what you are, what you stand for, and showing yourself authentically.

Advice for budding marketers 

As part of his last words in the conversation, Neil shared his simple tips on how aspiring marketers can get their headstart and eventually trail the path of their own success:

  • Don’t wait for the world come to you – always look for how you can do something differently or make a difference 
  • Be true to yourself and others – believe in yourself but always seek to be self-aware of your strengths and what you need to work on
  • You’ll never know it all – and that’s ok, just believe and be kind to yourself. 

“Don’t put yourself under too much pressure too soon. Let yourself make mistakes, understand where you’re at, at your career, and don’t be someone else, be yourself. People will quickly see through it if you know yourself,” said Neil. 

Watch the interview with Neil:

This interview was done in partnership with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solution that helps organizations achieve their digital potential by empowering their teams with actionable insights to deliver a superior website experience and drive growth. 

Main Feature Marketing Partners APAC

What the education space is making possible that it hasn’t prior to new normal: APAC universities’ panel discussion

Australia – Last 13 April, MARKETECH APAC’s webinar production unit ‘Inside Innovation’, through the webinar ‘Asia-Pacific Outlook 2021: Reimagining your higher education web strategy‘, has gathered digital marketing leaders and experts from higher education in APAC to talk about how the massive shift to virtual learning changed universities’ approach in engaging students and the challenges and new opportunities it has brought to higher education institutions in delivering an excellent and effective digital experience. 

Graced by panelists Paul Gower, deputy director for marketing & user experience at Australia’s Curtin University, and Monica Hong, the digital marketing national manager of Australian Catholic University, who were moderated by global SaaS solutions Siteimprove’s Vice President for APJ Gabriel Ponzanelli, and likewise joined by its Digital Marketing Consultant Rick Elenbaas – the group found that what stands out to be the most valuable opportunity right now in the education space is increased accessibility

The international and domestic market

While the pivot to online for almost all aspects of campus life such as admissions, enrolment, and the educational instruction itself, has imposed restrictions due to the lack of physical interaction, the greater focus on digital has also opened up a lot of opportunities for both institutions and students, which may not have been possible if weren’t for the nationwide lockdowns. 

One would be the reach to international students. Although both Gower and Hong agree that due to cross-border restrictions, the blow of the pandemic has been greater to their international market, it has also proved to be beneficial for reaching the said cohort in other areas such as implementing open days. 

“Moving forward into a hybrid deliverable is really good because we found that delivering a virtual open day meant that we can reach the international [audience] which we knew preferred to actually find information online, rather than physically go to open day, which was more for school leavers,” Hong shared in the panel.

Now that international reach has become more tightened at large, this then pushes universities to reimagine their curriculum and offerings and to put more attention to their domestic market. 

Siteimprove’s Ponzanelli having worked with different institutions shared that a common problem for schools at the start of the pandemic was the disruption of university attendance, where international students had to stop at the middle of the academic year and couldn’t come back to continue due to borders closed. 

With this, Ponzanelli shared the two strategies common among universities, “What we hear from a lot of them, they’re sort of looking at two strategies. One is to pivot away from say the [regions of] Central South America or Africa, or kind of away from the [regions of] China, Southeast Asia, and India; and the other one is [to] double down on the domestic,” he said. 

Gower shared that in Curtin university, they have been a lot more aggressive in protecting their domestic market share in the last 12 to 18 months – looking at offering more short courses for post-graduate students and to those that wish to take micro credentials – as a big growth opportunity. 

“[This] forms a large part of our marketing strategy for the next three to five years – developing much more [options] for short courses or nano or micro credentials which people can then use for broader accreditation [to more expansive programs],” shared Gower. 

“A lot of universities are looking at this, people just want to dip their toes in the water, learn, [and] get a bit of the flavor of a particular topic, particular skill, take that back and then see if they sort of go any further or build on that,” he added. 

The opportunity to attend school for physically challenged individuals

Aside from the dimension of opportunities with regards to domestic and international students, the new normal with the increased remote setup has given way to simply push forward accessibility as it is – for those students that are not able to attend physically such as those with physical disability, for example. 

Ponzanelli said, “The move to online and these hybrid models have really opened the door for people that probably couldn’t attend the university physically before. Somebody that is in regional areas of the country, [or] someone that [has] a physical disability, that just physically could not get to a campus. So I’m assuming and I’m hoping that accessibility is much bigger, and [is] more on the table than it used to be before.” 

The panel touched on the two-prong discussion on accessibility – first, the accessibility opened by virtual learning to get into higher ed for physically-challenged individuals, and then the other accessibility thereafter – how accessible a university’s online experience is, such as their websites in delivering a virtual campus experience. 

Siteimprove’s Elanbaas shared more on the topic in his deck presentation on how to make universities’ websites and digital campuses more accessible and effective, catering to the needs of internet-immersed digital natives. He discussed how websites should address more than just the visually impaired but also those who have cognitive impairments, deafness or difficulty of hearing, and also challenged motor functions. He also speaks of the long-tail effect of inaccessibility which could start from poor student experiences then resulting in negative word of mouth and then eventually losing out on the share on student enrolment. 

Of the topic, Hong shared, “Moving in a more digital native world, everyone goes on Google first to google everything that they do, and so it is important to make sure that we are visible on the website, [that] our website works, [and] our user journey is seamless as much as possible. So that is the most important thing.”

The webinar was done in partnership with global SaaS solutions Siteimprove. On-demand access to the webinar is now available. Watch as the panel discusses more in-depth the different challenges universities met at the onset of the pandemic, and how they have successfully adapted. Insights discussed were hybrid learning, adopting conversational platforms, marketing to influencers such as students’ parents, dealing with siloed subdomains, and diversifying global market strategies as the world continues to navigate the global pandemic. 

Marketing Featured ANZ

Murdoch University stresses future-centric vision with latest brand identity

Perth, Australia – To better represent the University’s vision towards a vision of a modern institution ready for the future, Murdoch University has unveiled its newest brand identity, created in partnership with marketing communications company Wunderman Thompson.

The new brand identity, according to Murdoch University Vice Chancellor Eeva Leinonen, supports the University’s vision to be recognized as a world-changing University by Western Australians, and national and international communities.

“We are a university of free thinkers, it is the foundation of everything we do, and our updated branding epitomizes this. This program builds upon Murdoch’s existing brand with an updated identity that reflects Murdoch as a modern university for the future,” Leinonen stated.

Meanwhile, Gary Smith, chancellor at Murdoch University, commented that the new brand identity was created with an ethos to challenge the traditional approach and embrace new ways of thinking.

“We are proud of our heritage, and while we respect our past, we must always look to the future – from our learning and teaching, to our built environment and research endeavours. The Murdoch University brand is more than a logo and free thinking is more than our slogan. It represents opening doors to an education for more people, teaching beyond the classroom walls and lighting the fire of curiosity in our students,” Smith explained.

The brand identity revamp is released as the University approaches its 50th anniversary. At the same time, Murdoch University has also uploaded a video showcasing the new brand identity to various students, faculty members and stakeholders of the University.

Neil Cullingford, director of marketing and communications at Murdoch University, said, “Our brand has always been built on the idea of free thinking, and in that spirit our visual identity needed to evolve to signal our future focus and global outlook. With free thinking being more relevant than ever, we challenged Wunderman Thompson to create an identity to carry Murdoch into the next 50 years and beyond.”

Meanwhile, Doni Savvides, partner at Wunderman Thompson, commented, “The new identity is a testament to the valuable partnership we’ve built over several years. It’s a demonstration of Murdoch’s core foundations and a commitment to being a progressive university. Aligning the visual brand narrative to free thinking has been a creative collaboration that the Wunderman Thompson team have felt privileged to be a part of.”

Marketing Featured ANZ

RMIT Online’s new campaign explores non-existent but future-oriented work

Melbourne, Australia – As works begin to evolve at a fast pace due to the continuous change in the work landscape and modern consumer demands, Australia-based online educational institution RMIT Online has partnered with creative agency Thinkerbell to launch a new campaign reimagining the ‘future of work’.

The campaign leverages the concept that some of the ‘jobs of tomorrow’ follow a natural or intuitive progression, but others will require an unexpected merger of two worlds coming together. These include occupations like ‘Cybersecurity Strategist’, ‘Digital Health Designer’, ‘Brand Scientist’ and ‘Blockchain Accountant’.

While these concepts are non-existent at the moment, RMIT Online aims to merge the familiarness of jobs such as designers and accountants into 21st century-inclined concepts, such as cybersecurity, blockchain, augmented reality, among others.

For Helen Souness, CEO at RMIT Online, the campaign illustrates the ‘defining moment’ in which we find ourselves in the mid of an ever-changing world, accelerated by a rapid uptick in digital technologies that all of us sharply felt over the past years.

“If Australians want to actively participate in the economy of the future, they will need more than an elementary understanding of new technologies, as Thinkerbell’s creative spark illustrates,” Souness stated.

Screenshots from the RMIT Online website, offering future-oriented career courses such as CX strategy and brand experience.

Meanwhile, Adam Ferrier, co-founder and chief thinker at Thinkerbell, commented, “This campaign is about inspiring Australians to lean into their curiosity and dream big about what the jobs of tomorrow will bring. A world where you can be a Space Lawyer is an exciting one full of limitless possibilities.”

The campaign is released in order to promote new courses by RMIT Online that cater to future-focused career opportunities such as CX strategy, content marketing, advanced product management, among others.

Main Feature Marketing Events Partners APAC

The rise of the digital campus: How digital natives are changing the education space way before the pandemic

Australia – A lot of things changed when the pandemic marked its arrival, to say the least. One right off the bat, and probably the most important, is that everything has been transitioned to online, if it hasn’t already; switching workplaces to now take the form of our personal four corners, to making almost every human activity – from consumer purchases to travel – a feature of digitization. All had their own share of adjustments, and this is also very much true with the academic community. 

In the recently concluded webinar by MARKETECH APAC’s Inside Innovation, ‘Asia-Pacific Outlook 2021: Reimagining your higher education web strategy’, speaker and digital marketing consultant for global SaaS solutions Siteimprove, Rick Elenbaas, shared the pivotal development in the education space, one that many may have been cognizant of for a while, but a topic that’s also equally begging of further attention – the increasing count of digital natives in the university. 

In his presentation, Elenbaas shared that between the years of 2014 to 2018 – now considered to be a pre-pandemic period – the generation that birthed digital natives are growing up and are slowly taking space in educational institutions, outnumbering other students. Referencing a PwC study, Elenbaas said that there are three types of students today: the traditional, those that went through academic instruction before the emergence of the internet; the transitional, students that have experienced the internet at a young age but are still navigating school in a hybrid way, and lastly the digital natives, those that have had internet access right from their toddler years, and whose lifestyle has been deeply integrated with the internet. 

Asia-Pacific Outlook 2021 Reimagining your higher education web strategy_3

“The rise and decline of the traditional student that is happening is what we call the ‘decade of change’, and currently we are now in a situation where we really are at that final cross-line where those traditional students are leaving the universities, and we’re only dealing with digital natives,” said Elenbaas. 

The pandemic may have served as the ultimate push to finally pay close attention to the digital space in higher education, but digital natives have long been showing dominance even way before this massive disruption and it is now time to ramp up universities’ digital campus. 

So what do this new group of individuals expect for the university online experience to be? First of all, Elenbaas said the student experience must be exactly what it promises – an end-to-end online experience – “they are expecting [that] everything happens online,” said Elenbaas. 

“From the day they leave high school, the day they start searching for a study [program], and eventually [to] when they leave the university, [they expect] that they still have access to online resources, so everything in their student life, they expect to be online,” he added.

Furthermore, digital natives, having been innately accustomed to online – which lends closer lens to just about every entity and content – expect that the student journey is personalized. This means that every data point, from mobile, web, and social app access down to the basic emails sent to them, they expect to be tailored to their needs. 

And lastly, Elenbaas said, this type of students would ask for online experience to be one thing – consistent. That means having a single customer view with consistent data across the entire student journey. This pertains to the type of data and quality presented. With the massive space in digital, a lot of touchpoints will be begging for their view and mind space and students would want an online experience that would help bring focus rather than add to the clutter. 

Elenbaas said that in order for universities to meet these needs, they need to do three things: achieve a single and uninterrupted digital student journey, make their digital student journey accessible, and transform their strategies to become digital resilient and future-proof. 

Elenbaas has shared in a more comprehensive view this topic on the webinar, which is now available on-demand. You may register here to get your access. In his presentation, he discussed in even greater detail the roadmap that universities can follow and apply to refresh and accelerate their digital campus in order to truly cater to the needs of digital natives in the new normal. 

The webinar also presented an expert panel, comprising Paul Gower, deputy director for marketing & user experience at Curtin University, and Monica Hong, the digital marketing national manager of Australian Catholic University, and that which is moderated by Gabriel Ponzanelli, the vice president of Siteimprove for the Asia Pacific region and Japan, to discuss in depth the current challenges and opportunities of universities in their digital marketing strategies amid the surge in online activity.

Obtain access to the on-demand webinar here.

Marketing Featured Partners APAC

MARKETECH APAC tackles higher ed’s digital marketing strategies in ‘new normal’ in webinar for APAC universities

Singapore – MARKETECH APAC, the news content platform dedicated to the advertising and marketing industry in the APAC region, has recently concluded its webinar Tuesday, April 13, which tackled the changing education landscape amid the pandemic and how this has pushed the imperative for higher education institutions to recalibrate their current marketing roadmap, specifically schools’ digital marketing strategies. 

Moderated by Gabriel Ponzanelli, the vice president of global SaaS solutions Siteimprove for the Asia Pacific region and Japan, the webinar, Asia-Pacific Outlook 2021: Reimagining your higher education web strategy, presented a panel of esteemed marketing leaders from Australian universities to discuss the current challenges and opportunities for universities in delivering a student experience now that the academic community has been thrust to completely navigate in a virtual environment. 

A presentation has also been showcased by Siteimprove’s digital marketing consultant Rick Elenbaas, who discussed in detail the definitive changes in the student journey and how they have affected students’ expectations. 

As the name of the virtual event promises, Elenbaas laid out the three core steps in delivering a converting and retaining web experience, namely: achieving an uninterrupted digital student journey, making your digital journey accessible, and becoming digital resilient and future proof. More details on this presentation to be found in the webinar’s on-demand access. 

In addition, Elenbaas also covered a lot of ground on how digital natives are outnumbering other students and what vital characteristics a university’s student experience should embody in order to truly connect and resonate with this group of individuals. Furthermore, he also emphasized a strand of students’ navigation online that some universities fail to pay more attention to and that is, the accessibility of their campus websites, that goes beyond just addressing visual impairment. 

Meanwhile, the panel discussion included panelists Paul Gower, deputy director for marketing & user experience at Curtin University, and Monica Hong, the digital marketing national manager of Australian Catholic University. The panel delved into the different points of the student journey and how each has been turned around by the absence of physical interactions. Gower and Hong, through the lens of their own universities, provided a picture of how the larger education space is changing – from delivering a seamless application process to conducting ‘open days’ and ‘student orientations’ at this new normal and to adapting the digital strategy for both the domestic and international markets.

The panelists also bared how each of their teams dealt with the challenge of moving into the unknown when the pandemic first struck, and how in such a massive environment and space as digital, they manage to prioritize which communication points are most important in user experience such as the accessibility of campus websites. 

The webinar was conducted under MARKETECH APAC’s webinar series Inside Innovation, and is in collaboration with Siteimprove. Siteimprove is a global SaaS solutions that provides organizations with actionable insights to deliver an effective digital experience that drives growth. 

You may register here to obtain access to the on-demand webinar.