Mills College


Oakland, CA

Client Challenge

Mills College, the oldest women's college west of the Rockies, was faced with the challenge of competing in a marketplace dominated by large public and private universities. The College needed to stand out in this crowded marketplace and differentiate itself as an institution by focusing on its unique strengths and history of advancing women. The overriding goal was to identify a positioning model for Mills that would ensure enrollment growth for a thriving future.


Our Approach

In keeping with the collaborative nature of the campus, we conducted extensive interviews with key groups within the Mills community to determine branding ideas true to the character of the College and followed up with subsequent sessions with faculty, students and administrators to present these concepts and seek the community's reactions and comments. Together, we determined the precise language of the concepts tested in the research with prospective undergraduate women. Our goal was to develop a branding, recruitment and pricing study based on highly sophisticated research that would enable us to accurately predict the enrollment and net tuition revenue impact of the initiatives tested in the research.


The Results

The research provided compelling evidence that one of the proposed positioning models would make a positive impact on the College’s enrollment growth. Once this market position was well-established, Mills would increase selectivity and have greater flexibility in pricing. Working with the newly-formed marketing department, we helped to debut the new positioning model in a completely redesigned website, and the positioning platform was implemented across a new series of recruitment publications. This collaboration resulted in success far beyond the College’s original plans: Mills exceeded target enrollment goals within the first year ― becoming one of the few undergraduate women’s colleges in the nation to enjoy substantial enrollment growth.