Qualitative Research Informs Messaging & Branding; Driving 300% YOY Growth
Manufacturing in America is booming. But the shortage of skilled talent combined with misperceptions related to manufacturing working conditions and technical sophistication is hindering growth and innovation.
There will be a shortage of 3.4MM workers in the next 10 years.
Companies need a pipeline of talent and a workforce development strategy. And when a European apprenticeship program launched in the US, its solution came with hundreds of years of proven performance, but with little recognition for its methodology or understanding of the value it provides.
The organization needed a two-pronged marketing strategy to recruit companies to join the program and to identify apprentice candidates:
- For manufacturing: Differentiate from the myriad of small-scale job training programs and establish as long-term solution to mitigate the worker shortage; backed by a proven ROI
- For potential apprentices: Re-introduce manufacturing as an innovative and highly technical industry and underscore the benefits of apprenticeships including a debt-free education, hands-on learning, and a living wage
Phase One: Research
Root3’s research team conducted in-depth interviews (IDI), a qualitative research approach, with select stakeholders to explore their perspectives (positive or negative) on an idea, program, or situation.
The IDIs centered around the program’s leadership team as well as over 25 stakeholders representing manufacturing, manufacturing associations and coalitions, colleges, referral partners (parents, school counselors), and apprentices (current, potential).
While interviews were underway, our team collected market intelligence:
- Competitive Intel: reviewed competitors for messaging, calls to action, website features, products/services to better understand what is driving target decision making.
- Digital Intel: mapped the digital footprint of the company and competition to develop a strategy to win paid and organic search.
Phase Two: Go-To-Market Strategy
Armed with research, a strong understanding of company resources, and intel, our team developed detailed personas for corporate partners, apprentice candidates, and influencers – and key messaging for each audience.
The message platform and target audiences informed a communication and PR strategy that defined, elevated, and supported the growth of the apprenticeship program. Specifically, the strategy addressed three primary challenges:
- Brand awareness
- The international brand name caused confusion in the US. The brand needed a more descriptive name that was clear and easy to understand.
- Negative connotation of apprenticeship
- Apprenticeships are not seen as a career path in the US. The brand needed to debunk myths and elevate the highly skilled apprenticeships they provide by underscoring the value to apprentices: a debt-free college degree, a career path, and a transferrable, in-demand skill set.
- Negative perception of manufacturing
- Manufacturing has evolved into a high-tech enterprise. The brand had to provide new visuals, highlight the highly technical aspects of manufacturing today while embracing its proud history.
Utilizing paid, owned, and earned media channels, our team developed a 12-month editorial calendar and authored and distributed rich content to target audiences.
When all channels work together (converged media) we put the brand in the driver’s seat publishing content and case studies on owned channels, amplifying via paid media and digital ads, and nurturing media relationships in the process.
Now in its third year, the apprenticeship program has doubled year-over-year and has expanded regionally. It has won numerous awards and garnered a significant investment that will accelerate the program’s growth in new markets.