Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Flat Ole wants my son to move to South Dakota April 14, 2011

ALMOST DAILY WHEN I pull open the mailbox, I reach inside to find another handful of letters for my son.

I dutifully toss them onto an end couch cushion, the one spot where he sits, with his laptop, and where he can’t miss his mail.

The stash of accumulating college information sent to my 17-year-old high school junior son.

Sometimes my high school junior opens the letters, but more often than not, he tosses them onto the middle couch cushion where they lie for a day or two or three before I scoop them up and jam them into a plastic shopping bag.

That bag bulges with letters and brochures from colleges across the country. Most arrive from the East Coast, including from some very prestigious colleges. But there are also letters from the West Coast and the in-between Midwest and down South.

I understand why my 17-year-old has stopped opening his mail, stopped reading the spiels about the best programs and students and campuses. After awhile, the pitches all begin to sound the same.

So what does it take for him to actually pause and open a piece of college mail?

For my computer geek teen, it’s all about grabbing his attention by presenting an eye-catching, out-of-the-ordinary, graphically well-designed mailing.

St. Olaf College in Northfield managed to attract the college-bound boy’s interest recently with a brochure that features little tabs to open. Who doesn’t like to see what’s hidden behind a closed door? An air of mystery sparks curiosity and…prompts us to investigate.

 

These five tabs each lift to reveal information about St. Olaf College in Northfield.

For each of five words—St. Olaf College Northfield Minnesota—the tabs lift to reveal a sentence. Behind the word door “St.,” for example, you’ll read this message: “You won’t literally find any saints here, but you will find students who ask big questions and take on big challenges.”

 

Under the word "Olaf," you'll learn that St. Olaf was founded by Norwegians.

And just in case the Minnesota winter may keep you from St. Olaf, think study abroad opportunities.

Honestly, this is, by far, my favorite college mailing that has arrived to date. So congratulations, St. Olaf marketing department, on some creative marketing that drew both my, and the teen’s, attention. Now, if you can show us some hefty scholarship money, we just may have a deal.

The second piece of noteworthy college literature didn’t exactly draw my eye initially. In fact, I almost threw Augustana College’s Go Viking magazine style publication into the recycling bin without a look. Its appearance suggested an alumni magazine rather than a college recruiting tool. But then, lucky for this Sioux Falls, South Dakota, college, I flipped through the pages and discovered—Flat Ole.

The folks at Augustana want potential students to cut out the picture of Flat Ole and take him on their travels. Photograph Flat Ole at famous landmarks, in exotic locales, in historic buildings, etc., and join his Facebook at facebook.com/flat.ole. This whole marketing gimmick, of course, plays off the Flat Stanley storybook character, with the Augie’s  irresistibly charming Viking mascot claiming to be Stanley’s Norwegian cousin.

 

You can clip Flat Ole out of the Go Viking magazine and take him on your travels. Or you can go to his website and download a Flat Ole cutout.

Except for that Flat Ole page, I didn’t read the rest of the magazine. So you judge whether Go Viking represents savvy college recruiting.

Finally, a third piece of college mail grabbed me primarily because of the word “geek,” which would certainly fit my computer brilliant teen. “Don’t be a geek out of water…dive into the G33KOSYSTEM.” I continued to read: “…at UAT, advancing technology will infuse every aspect of your education…the idea atmosphere developed by geeks for geeks…passionate about technology.”

 

Eye-catching words for any student who's in to technology.

And all the while I wondered, what is UAT? I flipped the brochure and read and reread, until I finally noticed the tiny logos in the corners with the miniscule writing, University of Advancing Technology. Still, that didn’t give me the location of the college. So, for that reason, even if this is a graphically-appealing mailing, I can’t give this brochure high marks. It’s important, really, really, really important, to make the college name pop.

 

Although the bright colors and graphic design grabbed my attention, I really had to look to find the name of the college on this UAT brochure.

By the way, my boy and I are not Norwegian. The fact that two “Ole” colleges scored well with me in the marketing area is pure coincidence.

HAVE YOU SEEN any college recruiting materials that stand out or fail in the marketing department? Why? Please share.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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