Integrating Science into Marketing


IntegratingScience Into Marketing

Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|May 24, 2023

In the latest installment of our video series, “Total Conviction,” Steve Kerge, Co-founder of Spark451 & Jenzabar Vice President for Enrollment Marketing, discusses how to apply scientific theories to modern marketing methods.

Steve invites you to push your marketing tactics beyond one-to-one interactions with a single student and focus on optimizing your communications to the influencers in that student’s life. Check out how he breaks down the science of this strategy in our latest episode above!

If you’re looking for further guidance on how you can integrate science into your enrollment marketing strategy, please reach out. One of our team members can discuss how we can help you reach your goals affordably.

You can also revisit the full collection of “Total Conviction” videos here!

We’re Truly Honored: Spark451 is Recognized for Excellence in Marketing


Westbury, NY — Higher education marketing firm Spark451, a Jenzabar company, is proud to announce that several recent marketing projects — launched in cooperation with our valued partner institutions — have earned accolades from the Collegiate Advertising Awards.

“We are very proud that our creative work is not only achieving exceptional results, but also receiving the highest honors in our industry,” says Irene Scala, AVP, Executive Creative Director. “Everything we create is a reflection of the meaningful and collaborative relationships we’ve established with our college and university partners, as well as the talent and hard work of every member of our team.”

Here are our latest award-winning projects:

Metropolitan College of New York

Category: Outdoor Transit/Airport/Subway - Series (Gold)
Project: Subway Advertising

University of Medicine and Health Sciences

Category: Student Viewbook - Printed (Gold)
Project: UMHS Student Viewbook

Longwood University

Category: Advertising Specialty (Silver)
Project: Sidewalk Sticker Collection

Cedar Crest College

Category: Brochure - Series (Bronze)
Project: Graduate Brochure Series

To view more of our work, check out our creative portfolio.

Regarding the College Board’s Recent Changes


Steve KergeBy Steve Kerge|April 5, 2023

Westbury, NY — On Wednesday, March 29, the College Board held a webinar regarding substantial changes they are making to the student search names availability this coming Fall 2023. Spark451 would like to share some thoughts with you on the topic.

First and foremost, as a leader in higher education enrollment marketing, Spark451 is an advocate of student data privacy. We practice the highest levels of data security while remaining committed to multi-tactical approaches to data acquisition, augmentation, and creative development. We have never guided our partner schools to be reliant on a single source for names, and continue to create a balanced approach to developing a qualified pool of students and their families to whom you can market. We have strong relationships with multiple names sources and will continue to monitor and work with the College Board as they evolve.

Our team was well represented at the College Board Connections webinar, and we have already asked questions seeking clarification on a number of factors regarding the new Connections platform. In short, we will continue to be your voice as we help you navigate through this new platform and collaborate with you in support of your institutional goals. As you might expect, some of the details for the College Board Connections plans are still being developed, and we will keep you updated as we keep our finger on the pulse.

Beyond the core student search activities, Spark451 continues to lead the industry with innovative digital marketing strategies that undergird each school’s unique goals. Our teams of strategists and digital media professionals have released thought-leadership pieces on our Spark blogs and vlogs, regarding topics such as:

This is a moment to pause and consider if your institution has a cohesive digital approach to engaging high school students and their parents. If you work with Spark451, you likely do – if you don’t, let’s get to work together.

Furthermore, our science of collaborating to meet the enrollment goals of your institution each year is not focused solely on creating a wide dragnet at the top of the funnel. Spark451 has always preached focusing on quality, as opposed to quantity, and marketing all the way from the suspect stage through enrollment. Our strategies remain solid and are nimble enough to evolve with shifts in the landscape.

Finally, as we digest the announcement from yesterday, we feel the need to share our position that shifts like this from the College Board are detrimental to both small and mid-size institutions, and more so, high school students and their respective access to information about college. When you combine this news with other shifts they have made, such as forcing institutions to purchase through plans that favor larger budgets, along with market announcements where they were attempting to purchase a marketing services company, the message is clear: the College Board is consolidating its power (under the flag of data privacy) through its quasi-monopoly on access to college-bound student data.

We’ve all experienced the countless examples of students saying, “I never heard of X small college until they reached out to me, and now, I am headed there this fall.” Moments like these will disappear under the new College Board Connections plan.

Spark451 remains committed to our mission of fueling the futures of colleges and students to be their masterpiece. That includes students of all walks of life, and institutions of all sizes and types.

About Spark451

Spark451, a Jenzabar company, is a higher education enrollment strategy, technology, and marketing firm that combines creativity with powerful technology to achieve measurable results. With a mission to help colleges and students fuel their future, the firm integrates a multitude of communication channels and platforms for effective enrollment marketing, student search, creative services, and digital media. Since 2011, Spark451 has worked with over 200 colleges and universities nationwide. For more information, please visit

The Power of Digital Media for Lead Generation and Engagement


The Power of Digital Media for Lead Generation & Engagement

Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|March 27, 2023

In the latest installment of our video series, “Total Conviction,” Megan Brammer, Senior Client Strategist at Spark451, joins Steve Kerge, Co-founder of Spark451 & Jenzabar Vice President for Enrollment Marketing, to discuss the power of a strong digital media marketing strategy for lead generation and engagement in higher education. Megan highlights two of our partner institutions who have implemented substantial student lead gen digital campaigns as part of their recruitment marketing tactics. Check it out above!

When you’re ready to dive in deeper on how a timely and measurable digital media marketing strategy can support your specific goals, please reach out. Our digital and enrollment marketing experts will be happy to help you develop a budget-friendly plan.

You can also revisit the full collection of “Total Conviction” videos here!

Enrollment Marketing and EdTech Veteran Jerald Harrison Joins Spark451

Enrollment Marketing and EdTech Veteran Jerald Harrison Joins Spark451

Meet Our Latest Senior Business Development Strategist

Spark451 Media RelationsBy Spark451 Media Relations|March 7, 2023

Westbury, NY — Spark451, a Jenzabar company, is proud to welcome Jerald Harrison, our newest Senior Business Development Strategist. Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Harrison will focus on our college and university partners in the Southwest and Western regions to help them reach and exceed their institutional goals.

“Jerald has a wide range of EdTech and enrollment marketing experience, and he brings a great deal of valuable expertise to this role,” says Steve Kerge, Co-founder of Spark451, and Jenzabar Vice President for Enrollment Marketing. “I’m very confident about the insights and solutions he can provide for our partner colleges and universities.”

Harrison holds an MBA from Mid America Christian University and a Master’s in human resource management from Webster University. For more than 15 years, he has been moving the admissions needle for higher education institutions. Harrison started his career in enrollment management services, working his way to becoming Chairman of an education technology consulting company that finds enrollment management solutions for institutions such as Southwestern Christian University, Southwestern Assemblies of God University, the University of Central Oklahoma, and Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

Harrison’s expertise allows him to advise both prospective and current institutional partners, providing crucial insights and understanding into solutions that colleges and universities may not have considered. He has a long track record of success in developing personalized enrollment strategies for recruiting traditional, non-traditional, and international students, and his unique knowledge of enrollment strategy, technology, and proven processes helps colleges and universities grow within their capacity, increase proceeds, and expand into new markets.

“This work allows me to help change the lives of students, faculty, and stakeholders every day within the higher education landscape,” says Harrison. “I chose this profession because it’s what I’m passionate about. I’m thrilled to be joining a group of individuals who feel the same way, and to use that passion to create strategic, innovative solutions for Spark451’s college and university partners.”

About Spark451

Spark451, a Jenzabar company, is a higher education enrollment strategy, technology, and marketing firm that combines creativity with powerful technology to achieve measurable results. With a mission to help colleges and students fuel their future, the firm integrates a multitude of communication channels and platforms for effective enrollment marketing, student search, creative services, and digital media. Since 2011, Spark451 has worked with over 200 colleges and universities nationwide. For more information, please visit

2023 Digital Media Trends for Higher Education


Ann LevyBy Ann Levy|March 7, 2023

Between the continually evolving digital preferences of college-bound Gen Z students — and the latest waves of targeting challenges resulting from platform evolutions such as the recent iOS14 privacy updates — savvy digital marketers must always keep an eye out for new workarounds and fresh opportunities.

As we fully settle into the first quarter of the new year, now feels like a great time to invest in some digital brainstorming for the months ahead. To help your planning process, here are some of the biggest areas of opportunity we see for higher education marketers in 2023.

The Year of Programmatic

Programmatic advertising is essentially automated media buying that allows you to bid on and buy media placement deals in real-time via an exchange (online marketplace), and serve your ads to specifically targeted audiences using either third-party data from sources like Oracle, Nielsen, and the like, or first-party lists such as your inquiries, parents, or even search vendor lists.

This is the year of programmatic everything, and higher education institutions need to get on the programmatic advertising train, because there’s just too much to lose without utilizing this tactic. With the ongoing fallout from privacy reform on Meta, and other social advertising platforms since the introduction of iOS14’s update, targeting audiences on social sites has become more challenging than ever. For example, when you’re trying to reach students who are under 18, using first– and third-party data targeting on programmatic has been increasingly important to get in front of audiences.

NYU Programmatic Ad Example
JMU Programmatic Example
Lehigh Programmatic Example

While programmatic display advertising has been popular among select higher ed marketers for a while, another form of programmatic advertising to watch for this year is programmatic audio — the cool new kid on the block for higher education. Gone are the days of buying radio spots on certain stations during specific time blocks, only to hope that your desired audience is tuning in during the times you selected.

Instead, programmatic audio makes it easier to connect directly with the right person at the right time, since it empowers you to target your audience with more specificity than traditional radio. Instead, you target your audience using third-party data and deliver your audio ads on popular streaming platforms such as Spotify, SoundCloud, Audacy, and iHeartRadio, as well as during podcasts and audiobooks. In a nutshell, it makes it easier for your ad to appear within the content that your target audience is already listening to on their apps or desktops.

Stop Advertising, Start “Authenticizing”

To connect with Gen Zers or Millennials on social platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, or YouTube, it’s important to lead with content that feels authentic — whether it’s paid or organic. Users flock to these platforms in search of quick hits of brief, entertaining, and original content that feels both immediate and a bit raw. In many cases, traditional highly produced ads tend to stick out for all the wrong reasons in these realms. (Don’t worry, those commercial-quality ads are still great for ConnectedTV, but more on that later.)

To make more of an impact on social platforms, rely on user-generated content as much as possible. For example, try utilizing your student ambassadors and tour guides while they’re still around campus, and ask them to record short videos about the places and traditions that make your campus feel special. Or, consider holding a school-spirit creative contest, and have students submit their favorite pictures or video snippets showcasing their favorite activities on campus.

While many institutions are just dipping their toes into the waters of TikTok, it’s important to remember what makes TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube so popular for our high school and college audiences: the authenticity of the platform. Be sure to channel that authenticity in your media presence across the board.

Netflix and …Ads

While we have been telling our partner schools about the importance of ConnectedTV (CTV) for a couple of years now, many institutions have yet to add this tactic to their multi-channel media strategies. Essentially, CTV gives you the ability to run video ads on streaming devices that are connected to the internet (AppleTV, Roku, FireStick, GoogleTV, etc.). As with programmatic advertising, you no longer have to buy television airtime on a certain channel during a specific timeblock. Instead, you can target your specific desired audience(s) and “follow” their watch habits so that your ads appear with the content they’re already watching. For example, some of the recent CTV campaigns we’ve run for our partner institutions have seen top-tier placements on streaming platforms such as ESPN, Peacock, NBC, Paramount, Fox, Hallmark Channel, and others.

The robust targeting options and the array of third-party data sources available on CTV are what make this tactic so compelling for our partner institutions. Among the thousands of targeting options available within the platform, you’re able to intersect interest segments based on what household viewers are searching for online, their household income brackets, demographics, and level of schooling, all layered in with other aspects of their persona profiles.

"Consumers have been attempting to reduce their subscription count to save money — 25% removed a paid CTV subscription this year and replaced it with a free, ad-supported service."

MNTN Research

If you haven’t done so already, now is a great time to start testing the waters with CTV. Last year, Netflix announced they’d be introducing ad-supported tiers, and Disney+ followed suit by the end of 2022. With streaming inventory supply increasing, prices will start lowering as more players enter the space. And, with advertisers spending less on Meta and Google than in years past (in fact, this is the first time since 2014 that Google and Meta have not had over 50% of digital ad market share), streaming platforms have the opportunity to have their moment in the spotlight.

Landing Pages and First-Party List Building

First-party list building (the process of gathering direct inquiries) has been top of mind since iOS14’s release in 2021, due to its widespread impact on digital advertising. As a refresher, iOS14 limited the tracking and attribution of users’ online actions. Ever since, paid media advertisers have been limited in targeting users under the age of 18, which has made it harder to retarget those users from websites and attribute actions they’re taking while using an iOS device. Of course, the paid social campaigns of our higher education partners who recruit this under-18 audience for undergraduate enrollment have been heavily impacted by these changes.

This is where first-party data gathering becomes the hero in this story! With your ability to serve retargeting ads to website users severely compromised, it’s more important than ever to collect direct inquiries early and often. To build your funnel, make sure that your ads drive prospective students to responsive landing pages with short inquiry forms — and use whatever incentives you have at your disposal (fee waivers, downloadable brochures, etc.) to make it as appealing as possible for them to share their information with you. Then, continue to cultivate these students via e-communications throughout the enrollment cycle.

We’re Here for You

While the items we’ve mentioned here are generally high on our radars for 2023, our teams of digital marketing and enrollment strategy specialists are prepared to help you craft a specific plan that will support your goals and help you connect with your desired audiences. When you’re ready to talk, reach out.

Registration Is Now Open For SparkThink@JAM

Registration Is Now Open For SparkThink@JAM

Wednesday, May 31–Friday, June 2, 2023 • Orlando, FL

Spark451 Media RelationsBy Spark451 Media Relations|February 22, 2023

We’re thrilled to announce that registration is now open for SparkThink@JAM, our first annual special interest forum on enrollment marketing, strategy, and technology!

Register Now

Taking place during this year’s 22nd Jenzabar Annual Meeting (JAM), SparkThink@JAM will bring together enrollment marketing and admissions leaders for engaging sessions and discussions that support the advancement of the higher ed community, as well as your own professional and personal development. By sharing diverse perspectives and experiences, you’ll be inspired with new ideas and tactics for engaging your target markets and elevating your recruitment campaigns and practices.

SparkThink@JAM will offer attendees 3 days of educational sessions, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities, as well as a one-of-a-kind experience at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, just minutes from Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Studios.

Learn more and register today!

We can’t wait to see you there! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

Access our latest webinar

What Recent College Graduates Think About Grad School



Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|February 9, 2023

You already know graduate school is a perennially attractive option for students seeking additional credentials, career advancement, or a career change. However, global events, evolving technological habits, and other factors can reshape what prospective students expect from their graduate school experience.

In our recent webinar, Director of Client Strategy Meryl McDonough and Client Strategist Meghan Oblazny released the findings of Spark451’s latest Graduate School Intenders Survey, which features feedback from nearly 1,000 recent college graduates.

Watch the recording to gain insights about:

  • Which factors students value most when assessing grad programs
  • Students’ communication preferences and social media habits
  • Respondents’ employment status
  • Delivery format preferences
  • And so much more!

You’ll also have the opportunity to download the full report!

Watch the Webinar and Download the report

SparkThink@JAM Call for Session Proposals

SparkThink@JAM Call for Session Proposals

Spark451 Media RelationsBy Spark451 Media Relations|January 30, 2023

Calling all admissions and marketing thought leaders! Here’s your opportunity to share your unique wisdom and help support the advancement of the higher education community. The teams at Spark451 and Jenzabar invite you to submit a session proposal for consideration for the 2023 SparkThink@JAM Special Interest Forum on Enrollment and Technology.

Call For Session Proposals Is Now Closed

Share some of the great work you’ve been doing on campus with an audience of your peers at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, FL, from Wednesday, May 31–Friday, June 2, 2023. Accepted presenters will receive complimentary registration to this 3-day event, featuring a full schedule of educational sessions, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities.

Each session will run for 60 minutes and should be focused on 1 of 3 core areas: enrollment strategy, marketing communications, and data/operations. Looking for inspiration? Potential topics may include:

  • Unique admissions and/or enrollment marketing challenges and solutions
  • Preparing for the upcoming “Enrollment Cliff”
  • Increasing diversity and/or being mindful of diversity in recruitment
  • Unexpected ways to connect with unique audiences (ex: adult degree completion, parent engagement, influencers, etc.)
  • Responses/solutions to recent newsworthy higher ed events (ex: Supreme Court case on affirmative action)

The Planning Committee looks forward to reviewing your topic as we collectively work to support the professional and personal development of our attendees and the higher ed community. The deadline to submit your proposal for consideration is March 1, 2023.

What is SparkThink@JAM: Special Interest Forum on Enrollment and Technology?

Taking place during this year’s 22nd Jenzabar Annual Meeting (JAM), SparkThink@JAM is a new session track dedicated to sharing information and ideas on topics related to enrollment management, admissions, strategy, marketing, and technology. It will offer attendees three days of educational sessions, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities.

This spring, more than 1,300 of your colleagues will be heading to JAM to focus on higher ed tech and the platforms driving your institutions. We hope you’ll join them — and us — in Orlando for a meaningful and memorable event focused on the latest innovations in admissions and enrollment marketing.

Additional details and registration information will follow.

SparkThink @JAM logo

Wednesday, May 31–Friday, June 2, 2023
Gaylord Palms Resort, Orlando, FL

We can’t wait to see you there! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.

3 Tips To Increase Your Admitted Student Yield


Spark451 Strategy TeamBy Spark451 Strategy Team|January 24, 2023

Yield is a unique yet vulnerable time in the enrollment cycle for higher education institutions. Admitted students can choose to either commit to your university or simply go elsewhere. Successful yield involves engaging your admitted students early, and often, by offering meaningful information to the students and their families. Most importantly, engaging students means building relationships and a foundation of trust at every opportunity.

When students begin their college search, they start by visiting campuses that have piqued their interest. Once a student steps foot on campus, they want to feel personally connected, and many institutions are very skilled at tapping into these feelings. During tours, students start imagining themselves in various settings on campus. They think about what it would be like to eat at the dining hall, play volleyball in the quad, work out at the gym, and study in the beautiful library.

All of these feelings are likely a large part of what drives them to apply. However, after a student submits an application, it’s common for institutions to continue focusing exclusively on recruitment and application generation. In some cases, months can go by between the time a student is admitted and when the school engages them again during yield season. This is a critical problem. During this gap period, the student could be visiting other campuses, receiving communications from other institutions about applying, hearing from school ambassadors about attending a class with them, and so forth. In short, these admitted students are being continually engaged by other schools, which means that the schools that admitted them earlier in the season could be at risk of becoming a distant memory.

The reality is that institutions can’t control the decisions that students ultimately make on where they will attend, but what they can do is create more strategic and impactful communications and position themselves in a way that builds trust with prospective students and informs their decision-making. Here are three tips that can help you focus your yield efforts and maximize your reach with your admitted student pool.

Tip 1: Use Your CRM to Strategically Personalize Outreach

Have you ever seen the inbox of a student who recently took the PSAT or SAT and scored really well? I have, and there are literally hundreds of emails from colleges and universities. These communications become white noise; the student no longer pays attention to the emails because there are just so many.

However, let’s say that your school was able to push through the white noise and garner an application from this highly sought-after student, and you have admitted them. You can be sure that this student has plenty of offers to choose from. This begs the question: What can your institution do to stand out from other schools?

Oftentimes, communications are sent as a means of sharing information and do not warrant a response. For example:

“Reminder: Spark University is having our Admitted Student Day on 3/11. Click here to register.”

These messages have a purpose in that we want to remind the student to register for Admitted Student Day. However, we want to mix these types of communications with more personalized messages that encourage the recipient to start a conversation with you. One example of a personalized message might look like:

“Hi, this is Julie, your Admissions Counselor at Spark University. Congrats on being admitted to Spark! I saw you visited campus last week. Are there any questions that came up after you got home?”

This type of message serves multiple purposes. It is a nice introduction of your admissions staff member; it provides a specific point of contact for that student; and the message is personalized to them and their experience.

You may be thinking, “How can my busy staff send out so many personalized messages to admitted students? How do I make time for this?” With your CRM, you can efficiently deliver personalized messages to your admitted students at scale. (Need help? The Spark451 team has experience creating, sending, and managing personalized communication workflows in whichever CRM you’re working in, and we’d be happy to discuss how you can leverage its capability to engage admitted students.)

Tip 2: Take a Consultative Sales Approach

When you adopt a consultative sales mindset, it means that you stop viewing yourself primarily as a representative of your institution, and instead, as a personal advisor to each student and family you work with. When communicating with admitted students and their families, the focus should be on building the relationship first. It’s important to be genuinely curious about a student’s needs, wants, and concerns. Once you feel that trust has been established, work with the student to encourage them to deposit at your school. Or, as the relationship develops, it’s okay if it becomes apparent that the student is not a good fit for your school. As an admissions/enrollment professional, of course it’s your responsibility to enroll students, but it is also your responsibility to be concerned about retention. If a student is not a good fit for your school, it is likely that the student will eventually contribute to the institution’s attrition rates.

Achieving your institution’s enrollment goals is critical, but fostering relationships, supporting students and their families, and helping them understand complex information to find the right fit should also be a top priority. Keep in mind, this approach not only engages the students that you have targeted for enrollment, but it also engages the biggest influencers for students — their parents or caretakers. Delivering excellent advice and helpful service to those key influencers is another way for an institution to set themselves apart from their competitors.

Tip 3: Make Comparing Your School to Other Schools Easy for Students and Families

Like I mentioned above, being helpful is necessary and extremely appreciated by admitted students. Many students apply to multiple schools. Once they are admitted, they spend many hours comparing their top schools until they come to a decision. If they have a hard time finding what they need to make those comparisons, your school will be immediately off the table. Consider creating a college comparison checklist so your students can easily rate how they feel about the most important categories impacting their decision.

Steps sheet

Rule of thumb: All applicable information for admitted students should be in one place and easy to find. At Spark451, we provide a robust personalized microsite for admitted students. This is where students can find all of the details needed to make a well-informed decision about where to attend. (We’d be happy to discuss our personalized microsites with you more, so your school can maximize its ability to provide all necessary information to admitted students and their families.)

These are tips you can start implementing today, but here at Spark451, we also offer more robust, larger scale yield strategies. We would be happy to discuss how we can help assist your school with yield and meet your enrollment goals — reach out today!