How the Open University improved segmentation to attract new students


Addressing a long-term market decline in the UK, The Open University has strived to inspire a whole new generation of distance learners.

Although the Open University occupies over 75% of the part-time distance learning market in the UK, this position comes with its own particular challenges, especially as it faces a period of prolonged decline. . The educational institution therefore decided that it needed a new approach to help it reach a target of 22,673 new full-time equivalent students, and use the media investment in particular to generate growth. 3% of inquiries.

In collaboration with Havas Media, the Open University used historical category data to better understand what drove decisions about distance learning. He then developed a multi-level framework to achieve this goal: inspire, explain and act.

“Inspire” focused on prospects in new growth categories, using BRTV to reach a wider audience. “Explain” targeted those who may not be familiar with distance education but who are interested in part thanks to the pandemic. Radio, digital audio, Spotify and podcasts were used to target strategic audiences, and through partnerships with Sky and Channel 5, the campaign was able to use real student voices to tell their story and success with the Open University. Finally, “take action” capitalized on the interest created by the first two levels, retargeting those who had engaged with the ads and giving them a more difficult call to action.

The tiered approach has allowed the Open University to exceed its goals. A total of 28,030 new UK full-time equivalent undergraduates were enrolled, a 33% year-on-year increase, while the inquiries target was exceeded by 7%. Interactions on the Open University website have also increased by 37% in one year. Yes, Covid has contributed, but with paid media accounting for 29% of total new requests, it was clear that the project has also played a significant role in the growth of the category.

This success allows the Open University to win the 2021 Marketing Week Masters award for the best use of segmentation.


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