2015 Excellence in Education Spotlight: Marketing Innovation at Tricoci University of Beauty Culture

MODERN SALON's Excellence in Education annual recognition program celebrates leading cosmetology schools, highlighting innovative programs and best practices in eight categories and two divisions (single location and multi-unit schools).The 2015 Excellence in Education honorees were announced October 24 at the American Association of Cosmetology Schools conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Among 38 schools recognized, top honorees were named in each category.

In this Excellence in Education Spotlight series, MODERN SALON connects with each of the top honorees to further explore programs and how schools are collaborating to develop the future of professional beauty. Here, a closer look at the 2015 top honoree in Marketing Innovation, multiple locations.

Brand building was the Tricoci University of Beauty Culture’s main focus in 2015. To accomplish greater awareness in its markets, the school invested in traditional media channels while simultaneously focusing on digital content and social media strategies. 

Building a Better Brand

Tricoci University had a mission this year—to build awareness of its brand and increase enrollment. To date, the school has realized an 8-percent increase in applications and a 6-percent increase in student population, with more growth expected the rest of the year.

Billboards, public transportation ads, magazine ads, radio partnerships, direct mail, and event/cause marketing all contributed to the brand-building campaign by adhering to strict brand guidelines and hitting on several key brand message points.

“We were really proud of our billboard campaign,” says Krista Smith, director of marketing. “The message, ‘Beauty Rocks the City,’ carried through across multiple platforms. Students even took photos of the billboards and posted them on social media.”

Tricoci purposely left a URL off the billboards, keeping them simple and impactful. “Millennials are known for not using URLs,” Smith says. “They just do a Google search, so we put our logo and an image of beautiful models on the billboards.”

Upon searching for Tricoci University, prospective students find a website that has been completely overhauled (relaunched in July) and built up with new menus, navigation tools and optimized for SEO. As a result, Tricoci has seen double the inquiries in the last few months over the previous year.

“We had to make it a mobile-friendly, responsive design,” Smith says of the new site. “We made sure our blog and social channels were prominent, too.”

Tricoci was also purposeful in the kind of students they attracted to the school. “We want to attract students who are going to complete their education and be successful in the industry,” Smith says.

Through partnerships with platforms like Google, Velocify and FAME, Tricoci has been able to extract data to find out where marketing is performing best and create a heat map to figure out where their most successful students are coming from.

“We specifically look at these maps when we’re doing outdoor billboard campaigns,” Smith says. “We pull three years of data on current students and graduates and we’re seeing results—licensure is 94 percent across the system. We are consistently looking for new ways (and using data) to attract future professionals. We want students to be successful during school, but more importantly, we want them to be successful in their chosen careers after graduation.”

The digital focus extends to social media as well. This year, Tricoci made the decision to bring social media in house for a more authentic voice.

“We look to be not just an authority or recruitment site, but also to engage, have contests and show student achievements,” Smith says.

Although Tricoci’s marketing endeavors are layered and detailed, Smith advises simplicity when creating a strategy.

“Keep it simple, engaging and about the students,” she says. “It’s always about them, not us. A lot of times we’re talking to them instead of with them, but conversations rather than lectures are much more successful.” 

School Spotlight: Tricoci University of Beauty Culture

Location: Oak Brook, Illinois

Owners: Mario Tricoci, Ross Bravo, and Concentric Equity Partners

Established: August 2004

Average enrollment: 75 students per campus (ranges from 44 to 126 per school; there are 11 campuses throughout Illinois and Indiana).

Best student perk: “Our killer student kits. It has everything you need to start a career, including an iPad preloaded with important resources,” Smith says.

AACS member? Yes; joined in 2006.

What is one big idea you've adopted from an AACS event or talking to another AACS member? "We have taken a lot of little nuggets here and there. Every year we bring something back and put our own spin on it.” 

What's one major improvement that you're planning for 2016? "Finish doing remodels on all our campuses—six out of 11 are done already,” Smith says. “We’re also looking to expand into new markets and open additional locations. And we’re really excited to be rolling out barbering at select locations.”

What schools or educators inspire you? "We like to look at the larger beauty industry and keep an eye on brands like Redken, Repechage and Pureology and see what they’re doing and what’s new so we can stay on trend with them.”

What does your Excellence in Education recognition mean to you? "We send out an all-student e-mail letting them know of our accomplishment, reminding them they are part of something bigger,” Smith says. “We proudly tout it on our website, social media and marketing collateral. It’s humbling, and allows us to set the bar higher, which we have ingrained in our culture. We’re always reaching for the next level.”

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