The Student Room: What you need-to-know about the conversion journey

The_Student_Room_Group_LogoI love the Student Room. The team are easy to work with and they provide an unrivaled service to students all over the world, helping them find the right course and dealing with really tough topics like stress and anxiety. But that’s not all that they do.

The team also provide resources to university marketers, aiding them in their quest to remain relevant to young people. I jumped at the chance to write an article for this group, sharing my knowledge of student conversion journeys and the first steps marketers can take to create their own.

I was commissioned to write a two part article for, starting with part 1 below.

Commissioned article on the student room

Birmingham Updates: Why you should study Law at Aston University

BU-Logo-2017-RetinaBirmingham Updates are a special kind of publication. They grew out of the Birmingham Riots in 2011, reporting the madness as it unfolded on a Facebook page.

Today, they are a leading digital news publication, even beating Birmingham Mail for levels of engagement per post. Very impressive for a small team of reporters.

I wrote a piece of advertorial on behalf of Aston University. Given that the University attracts around 50% of it’s students from the local area, it made sense to promote it’s Law course using this locally-focused publication.


The Apprenticeship Guide: The original university for degree apprenticeships


So, degree apprenticeships are a thing. In short, the apprentice works full-time and studies their degree on the side. However, all their fees are paid by their employer.

Wish I had done the same.

Representing Aston University, I was asked to write a piece of advertorial for 2018’s Apprenticeship Guide, which I have included below.

You can learn more about the guide at

The original university for degree apprenticeships

In 2015, we launched the first ever degree apprenticeship. Since then, many other universities have followed suit, and fair play to them, if we saw that Aston apprentices were averaging higher grades, landing better jobs and working in global companies, we would have done the same.We have degree apprenticeships in:

  • Digital & Technology Solutions
  • Embedded Electronic System Design and Development
  • Chartered Manager
  • Executive Apprenticeship (MBA)

And launching soon:

  • Senior Leader
  • Healthcare Professional
  • Nuclear Engineer
  • Logistics and Supply Chain

Right from the start, you’ll work in a job with annual progression and be supported by gold standard teaching. Everything you learn – whether it’s in between meetings, during your commute or on campus – is to build the new professional you.

Our apprentices are making waves in Microsoft, Virgin Media and a wide range of SMEs. You can specialise in business, technology or manufacturing, which covers the marketing of new apps to the production of chocolate floors*.

If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to wait to start their career and still wants a gold standard education, take the first step by visiting:

*Aston apprenticeship provider Forbo manufactures cocoa based floors. They come in milk, white or dark chocolate varieties.

Aston University: Learn here. Earn more.


One of the perks of working in marketing is creating something that resonates. Sure, first comes the strategy, positioning etc. but eventually you get to the fun part: messaging and creative.

My task was to take the statistic:

Aston is ranked 2nd in the UK by the Economist for boosting graduate salaries, graduates earning, on average, within £3000 more five years after graduation.

… and turn it into something campaignable.

After a little wordplay and tapping into key themes, I arrived at the messaging:

Learn here. Earn more.

Direct and simple, it mirrors Aston’s reputation of being ‘business-like and getting things done’, as well as speaking to the ‘ruthless ambition’ of the students it attracts.

The campaign used graduate success stories to back up the messaging, which was further reinforced by the credibility of the Economist statistic.

The creative was bold, direct and put the stars of those stories on billboards and across a variety of outdoor media in the Midlands. The campaign was supported by a suite of digital communications, which included stories, written by myself, and video.

Creative execution and placement

Thomas Street, Birmingham

Out of home ads created by Kyle Campbell.jpg

Generic out-of-home network

Outdoor display ads in Birmingham.jpg


Ads produced by Kyle Campbell in the Bullring.jpg

Ad on the Aston Expressway

Ad on the Aston Express Way.jpg

Birmingham City Centre



Next time someone tells you that your idea ‘isn’t very us’ tell them to watch an advert for a bank

Yet another high street bank has smashed it out of the park with their latest cute piece of advertising. Santander’s ‘Piggy’ ad is so perfect that I immediately googled ‘how do I get a Santander piggy bank’ and was all too happy to share the video far and wide.

If you didn’t hold up your hands in horror at 0:23 then you’re not human. I tested it on my partner (who is usually ironclad with this sort of stuff) but even she started crying around 15 seconds in.

This got me thinking, why do we identify with this lost pig? Why do we care? Is it the sad human-like eyes; the superb anthropomorphic animation against a backdrop of heart-wrenchingly sad music; or is it something deeper – a human need to protect the weak and be the hero of the story? Whatever it is, this piece of advertising is a masterclass in pathetic fallacy and manufacturing empathy. I want to jump in, give the kids at 0:20 a stern talking to and welcome that pig into a loving home.

You wouldn’t think this advert comes from an organisation where  ‘consistent and growing profitability, as well as a strong balance sheet’ are top of the strategic agenda. If anything, the ad pushes against this, opting for a deeper emotional connection – we’re here for you, trust us, we’ve got this.

Banks: Where creative advertising lives

Every time someone tells me that an idea ‘doesn’t fit with our image’ or isn’t ‘the Company X way of things’ I immediately point them to a bank’s YouTube channel.

Since the 2008 financial crash, I’ve seen some brilliant and risky positioning by banks to rebuild trust and loyalty with customers. More recently, I’ve seen banks like Halifax – previously famous for the awful ‘who gives you extra’ – do an about face and target the younger generation, who now, despite all odds, are trying to get on the housing ladder.

Can you imagine the reaction to this video when the concept was first unveiled in the boardroom:

“We’re going to use Top Cat as the new face of Halifax – Tip Top! We’re going for millennial home buyers who want extra!”
*A man in a suit faints*
“It’ll be fine. We’ve got Scooby Doo and Wizard of Oz lined up for next quarter.”

It doesn’t stop there. Halifax are also using recognisable shows like the Flintstones and Thunderbirds to sell savings accounts. It’s awesome and fun. I don’t believe it’s simply a publicity stunt, the depth and breadth of the creativity points to a slight repositioning of the bank – the tone of these cheeky assets running through the top pages of its website, and down into sub-content on ‘saving tips’ presented by Brains himself.

The irreverence and playfulness of the ideas will attract new customers. Turning your homepage into a cartoon is risky business – not very bank-like? – yet these assets will continue to resonate with their target audience, the bank trading on the nostalgia factor for years to come.

Think of the audience, not your history

Universities are terrible at taking risks. Watch a university ad and it won’t take long for you to see a ‘green campus’ at the heart of a ‘culturally diverse’ city. Yawn. The bulk of universities are youth brands. Surely this permits greater risk-taking than that of Halifax or Santander?

The challenge is communicating to senior stakeholders that a departure from standard positioning, isn’t a departure from core values.

Top Cat may be talking ‘mular’, but the advisor is still determined to ‘give him extra’ where other banks perhaps won’t. It’s the same with Santander’s Piggy – not what you would expect from a global investment bank, but a perfect use of emotional marketing to make the target audience sit up and listen.

Aston University: VR Headset


Results Day is an emotional time. Forget the pictures in local newspapers, students holding up little pieces of their future, just imagine (or recall) that feeling of finally knowing what was happening with your life in September after months of waiting.

Now picture a campaign that rides of the back of that high. That celebrates your emotional moment of getting into university and gives you a glimpse of the fun, unscripted times ahead.

Working with Aston University, I managed the creation of a branded VR headset that was sent to all new Aston students on Results Day. Additionally, I scripted and storyboarded a 360-degree video to accompany the device.

The headset was packaged with a small postcard, including a link to a video explaining how to use it:

You can also watch and learn more about the creative concept for the VR video in the project: Say Hello to Aston in 360.

Aston University: Email marketing and content creation


A major part of Aston’s conversion journey is email marketing.

Having worked with stakeholders to map out their student journey, I created a suite of communications to connect with their audience at key parts of the conversion process.

My philosophy was to simplify communications around clear calls to action and produce content with an emphasis on adding value to improve engagement.

The first example below was sent to post-16 students during their summer exam period. It features a video on how to beat procrastination, as well a downloadable guide (produced by myself) on how to own revision with zero motivation.


The second email below was sent to Law offer holders. It contains a student success story, helping these particularly hot leads ‘picture’ themselves on campus and, better yet, securing an aspirational legal placement.


To date, I have produced over one-hundred emails for Aston’s conversion journey.