Budget needed to break into the market and gain awareness, says expert
The final steps of launching Ryerson’s law school included a two-phase marketing plan, the first of which began in May, ran until the end of June and cost almost $130,000.
Ryerson Law opens in fall 2020 and has been in the works since being approved in 2017. According to the Board of Governors June 2019 report, as part of Phase 1 of the campaign, Ryerson Law spent about $128,000 on a multimedia channel marketing plan, which included $60,000 in print advertising, $31,500 in out-of-home advertising in the PATH, elevators and transit shelters, $5,000 on hydro pole advertising and $30,500 on digital advertising.
“To open the first law school in Toronto in [many] years takes an enormous amount of work, especially when starting from scratch,” the acting dean for Ryerson Law, Anver Saloojee explained. “Our campaign is about developing an identity for the law school and increasing awareness of the school, as well as what differentiates it from other law schools. At the same time, it gives us the chance to promote our university more generally.”
In addition to the money spent on advertising throughout the city and in newspapers, the law school was promoted using influencer marketing, which is a form of social media marketing using endorsements and product placements from influential people.
“The influencer strategy was to help drive awareness for the law school with the right and relevant audiences,” Saloojee said. “This happened in Phase 1, where marketing efforts were made to drive awareness for Ryerson’s law school with influential industries like law, business and government.”
Saloojee explained that the money put into the marketing campaign seems to have paid returns. There have been more than 40,000 unique visitors to the law school’s website since May. Almost half of those visits, 18,000, have been in the past month, since the beginning of Phase 2, which focuses on student recruitment.
“We are confident brand awareness, while difficult to measure, has grown,” Saloojee said. “The response on social media during the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive, including [from] business leaders, lawyers, Ryerson alumni and prospective applicants.”
According to Kristi Eaves-McLennan, vice-president for marketing and communications at Meredith College in North Carolina, a marketing budget should be seen as an investment that will earn a return over time.
“There are a lot of variables that go into deciding how much to invest in marketing a new program,” she explained. “The amount of competition, the uniqueness of the program in the marketplace, and enrolment goals are all drivers of the marketing budget. For example, if a school is launching a new program in a large city where there’s already a lot of competition, a larger marketing budget will be needed to break into the market and gain awareness.”
In late August, the university launched Phase 2 of the marketing campaign, which targets student recruitment. Saloojee notes that Ryerson Law’s first open house on Saturday, Oct. 5, was at maximum capacity, with more than 200 people signed up.
In the next year before the school officially opens, marketing campaigns will continue, aiming to grow support and awareness for the law school. That will include attending university fairs, open houses, the announcement of a new dean and more.
Ryerson Law will be the third law school to open in Toronto. York University’s Osgoode Hall opened in 1889. The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law opened in 1949.