Messiah College | Mechanicsburg, PA
With roots tracing back to 1909, Messiah College had offered an intellectually stimulating, service-oriented, and Christ-centered education for more than a century. In recent years, however, Messiah had begun to offer more incentives to attract the same number of students in an increasingly competitive Christian and secular higher education landscape. But even as the college extended enticing new benefits, enrollment plateaued.
In truth, it was Messiah’s mission—not just more money—that stood as the true draw. Once the college courageously presented its unexpected value proposition, best-fit prospects wouldn’t need extra incentives—they’d convince themselves.
Carla Gross, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
Messiah, a Christian college founded more than a century ago by the Brethren of Christ, sprang from a complex meshing of faith traditions, weaving together seemingly contradictory Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan roots. As such, Messiah had traditionally welcomed students from all Christian faith traditions into spirited conversation.
But a slowed economy and increasingly sophisticated competition began to erode the college’s formerly robust applicant pool. Even generous incentives weren’t doing enough to attract best-fit students; more of “the usual” marketing approach–a message that frankly made Messiah sound much like any other academically strong Christian college—wasn’t helping either. Prospects and competitors filled in the blanks with their own often inaccurate and uninspired ideas about the college. It was time to answer the question that mattered most: “Why Messiah?”
Messiah’s difference—its surprisingly inclusive theology, gracious Christian hospitality, and intellectual integrity—had not found sufficient expression through the college’s marketing. For Messiah, claiming this distinctive identity meant first taking a fresh look at a richly complex heritage, then (re)interpreting what those roots mean to today’s Messiah experience.
The Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan traditions that inform the college’s 21st-century approach don’t just coexist; they interact with one another and ultimately are the driving force behind the transformative college experience Messiah offers. Messiah isn’t simply another Christian college recruiting typical Christian students; Messiah is the Christian college that teaches intellectually curious students how to hold seemingly contradictory ideas in tension and, in the process, to learn to see anew.
Reclaiming the college’s founding values meant embracing tension—not the tension that strains and stresses, but the kind of positive tension that holds together the disparate parts of a balanced whole. Every aspect of the Messiah experience could be seen through this distinctive “tension-filled” lens. Faith-Intellect, Discipline-Imagination, Wisdom-Experience, Discovery-Belief, Work-Play: the new marketing messages place these ideas in taut harmony and then invite prospects to “see anew”—see their spiritual and academic ideals anew, see themselves anew, see Messiah anew.
To visually convey this concept of tension, reconciliation, and wholeness, we employed a stained-glass window motif: light-filled, multicolored glass represents the different faith traditions held beautifully together within Messiah, which is symbolized by the strong leading that unites them.
In the CRANE program’s very first year, Messiah College exceeded enrollment goals for new students, honors students, and, for the first time ever, students from under-represented ethnicities. The CRANE process energized staff members to take full ownership of their newly articulated brand, giving them the tools—and more importantly, the mindset—to continually strengthen Messiah’s market position and its standing in the Christian college world.