McGraw-Hill Education

We created a new McGraw-Hill brand to engage college students.

Brand Strategy / Campaign Strategy / Branding / Creative / Digital / Content Creation / Video

The Challenge

Getting College Students Excited to Connect


The challenge of branding Connect, McGraw-Hill Education’s digital learning assistant, may best be summed up in the first line of the video spot Garfield created for the product: ‘“My favorite hobby is reading my textbook,” said no one ever.’

Going to college is an exciting time for many reasons — it’s a transition into adulthood, into independence. You make new friends, join organizations, and learn about yourself in the process. But one aspect of college life that doesn’t tend to thrill students, from 18-year-old freshmen to parents taking evening classes, is textbooks. Even if those textbooks provide the same personalized, adaptive, high-tech experience students get from their favorite gadgets and apps.

McGraw-Hill Education decided to change that — and enlisted the help of Garfield to make students excited to use Connect. It was July, and the first day of school was coming up in just a few short weeks. Would that be enough time to Create Brand Action and deliver A+ results?

When the grades came in, the answer was a resounding “yes.” Let’s take a look at how this campaign graduated summa.

The Solution

Connect: College Smarter, Not Harder


A month isn’t a long time to create a new logo, look and feel, landing page, email campaigns, social ads, SMS messages, long-form content, a video storyboard, multiple print pieces, and swag options. But with teamwork, determination, and plenty of coffee, Garfield conceived and executed a concept we believed would communicate the Connect value prop in a way that resonates with a diverse group of students: College Smarter, Not Harder.

In four words, all the technical benefits of Connect — from time-saving ebooks highlighted to signify the most important parts of each reading, to algorithms generating custom study guides, to alerts reminding students to head to class or study for exams — were summed up in one, powerful benefit. Connect is a more efficient way to learn, giving you more time to live your college life. Whether that entails joining your SGA, trying out for the rugby team, packing the kids’ lunches, or diving into a new novel, Connect frees you to be you while making it easier than ever to get the grade.

Students who received these marketing materials were encouraged to sign up for Connect, download the ReadAnywhere app, participate in sweepstakes, opt into text messages, and engage with the brand across multiple forms of media. Once campaign metrics started coming in, it was clear that students were engaging big time.

The Connect College Smarter video combines educational content with fun, entertaining video content.

  • The landing page uses youthful language, fun photography, and multiple points of engagement to get students signing up for and talking about Connect — and how it makes their college lives better.

  • The Connect landing page uses bold design, product demos, student testimonials, webinar signups, a social sweepstakes, and grade statistics to drive adoption.

  • The 26 College Life Hacks poster shows college success tips and eye-catching photography and design as part of a first-day-of-class package to get students excited about Connect.

  • Garfield designed College Smarter t-shirts with clever branded statements as part of a first-day-of-class package to appeal to a wide variety of students and make Connect relevant to their college lives.

The Brand Action

1M Ad Impressions and 50K App Downloads in 4 Weeks

It took the Garfield team more than a few long nights, a handful of productive weekends, and even working through a holiday to hit the ever-important back-to-school deadline, but the effort paid off in a huge way. In a mere four weeks of running the campaign, Connect garnered:

  • More than 1,000,000 social ad impressions
  • More than 70,000 opt-ins to receive SMS communications
  • 50,000 downloads of the ReadAnywhere app
  • An unthinkable 45% open rate on one email campaign
  • More than 10,000 clicks on 15-minute study skill webinars

Connect managed to eclipse its YOY conversion rates in just 30 days, proving that College Smarter, Not Harder was a motto students from any university could rally behind.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the outcomes we’ve seen as a result of the College Smarter, Not Harder campaign. The branding, voice, and content managed to reach a wide swath of students from a variety of different backgrounds and walks of life. Garfield helped us position Connect and digital platforms as the future of learning, not just secondary supplements to traditional course materials. Changing mindsets and encouraging people to be open to transformation is no easy feat, but Garfield made it happen.”

Betty Nelson
SVP and Chief Marketing Officer, McGraw-Hill Higher Education

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