Influence Marketing Case Study: Ringling College of Art and Design

Client: Ringling College of Art & Design

The cost of post-secondary education continues to grow to the point where many families simply can’t afford it, causing those who make the financial sacrifice to be beholden to student debts for many years past graduation.

Then there’s the increasing bar that admissions departments place on acceptance, with more and more of the few available spots being given to foreign students who pay higher tuitions.

If you make it past all of that, a simple Bachelor’s Degree doesn’t guarantee a job in your field or fulfil the traditional promise of a well-paying job. Or a career for that matter.

Campaign: Why Ringling


  • Increase the number of applications received by the admissions department.
  • Increase the number of confirmed acceptances among those approved for admission.


  • While the education is specialized and the job placement in key positions is well documented, the cost of a tuition at such smaller, private colleges is higher than other educational options and fields of study.
  • The location of south Florida is not a traditional “hot spot” for art and design.
  • A career in art and design is not known for an abundance of post-graduation opportunities or even high-paying jobs. The stereotype of “the starving artist” still rings true for many parents who discourage students from applying – or accepting – positions at art colleges.


  • To combat the declining admission and acceptance confirmation rates, we created a peer-to-peer influence marketing campaign that leveraged successful alumni and existing students to mentor and encourage students at different stages of the customer decision life cycle.
  • A social website was created to work along side the traditional admissions website which featured content, social proof, conversations, and peer-to-peer mentorships in a manner that students wished to engaged in.


  • A number of micro-influencers were identified across the country, including:
    • Art teachers and community art instructors, who were targeted to promote a dedicated community site and mobile app that would connect high school freshmen with student and design industry professionals.
    • Current enrolled college students, who agreed to act as mentors to aspiring art students, ensuring the high school student did not lose their passion for art.
    • Successful alumni with recognized accomplishments such as high paying jobs, senior titles, and awards such as an Oscar win for art direction/animation, etc., to engage parents who fear a career in art won’t justify the expenditure.
Micro-Influencers: Student Mentors

Micro-Influencers – Successful Alumni

  • High school students and parents were engaged at different stages of the customer lifecycle starting with freshmen (awareness stage), to sophomores (consideration stage), to seniors (decision stage). Various campaigns were executed, monitored, and measured for each group. We drove students and parents along the life cycle path,  connecting students and their parents with key influencers based on the factors affecting decisions making at each stage.


  • Increase in the number of applications was seen in the first year.
  • Increase in the number of high school students who indicated art college was a considered option.
  • Increase in the number of students attending pre-college, and the number who executed acceptance letters.

Final Thoughts

We chose to avoid celebrity “Macro Influencers” for this campaign as studies (and our own experiences) show that while students may change their perceptions about health trends and social responsibility based on the advocacy of celebrities, their purchase decisions are more likely to be influenced by their peers and micro-influencers.

The key to success here was to connect those whose existing circumstances and situational factors were most closely aligned with those of the end decision-makers: The students and their parents.

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