Most schools send picturesque brochures featuring falling leaves and smiling students proudly donning clothes with the college’s name precisely displayed to entice prospective students. St. Ben’s and St John’s, however, tried a unique recruitment technique this summer: bread.
“We asked ourselves, ‘How do you actually get someone’s attention through all the clutter?’” Tom Voller, director of marketing for CSB/SJU Admissions, said.
The answer? Delivering Bennie and Johnnie bread to high school seniors.
Voller came up with the idea during a conference and was thrilled when the whole Admissions team jumped on board.
Five teams, comprised of admissions employees and student workers, visited families in the St. Cloud area, down the I94 corridor and through the western half of the Twin Cities. They stopped at about 220 homes in two days, targeting primarily students whose parents attended St. Ben’s or St. John’s. As the program expands, Voller hopes to include a wider variety of prospective students.
Postcards notified the families ahead of time, and during the visit, delivery teams presented each student with a loaf of bread, an information packet, a T-shirt voucher for students and a referral card for parents.
“We went after a pretty easy group of people who know what the bread was about,” Voller said. “The best part was the people. You become amazed at how small the world is.”
As an SJU alumnus, Voller enjoyed having conversations and making connections with fellow St. John’s graduates. The admissions office received several emails and notes from families sharing their appreciation for the personal visit.
Although he was not home when the breadmobile stopped by, John Riebel, a senior at Kennedy High School in Bloomington, still appreciated the unique gesture.
“I appreciated the opportunity to meet the reps in person that came to my house and the great Johnnie bread,” Riebel said.
Riebel’s father, Brad Riebel, graduated from SJU in 1980. As a proud Johnnie alumnus, he also acknowledged the sincerity and distinctive nature of the breadmobile.
“I believe it was an absolutely ingenious idea, focusing on something that makes the schools unique,” he said. “It was an awesome opportunity to meet them (the Admissions reps) and share our Johnnie/Bennie stories.”
CSB junior Lauren Currie worked for admissions this summer and had the opportunity to be part of a delivery team. She shared similar feelings about the initiative and especially enjoyed seeing students get excited about CSB/SJU and sharing stories with their parents.
“I think this project was great because it allowed us, the students, to connect with prospective students in a different and unique way,” Currie said. “We had the opportunity to bring a big part of the Bennie/Johnnie tradition right to their front door.”
The project turned out to be a complex undertaking, and the biggest challenge of the campaign was the logistics. The admissions office had to install routing software to plan the trips and constant communication was needed between the delivery teams.
Despite some bumps along the road, Voller is confident in the breadmobile’s success and future.
“I’m hoping it will grow and expand next summer,” Voller said. ” There is no question we will do it again.”