Developed and created by Saatchi LAB, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)’s ‘Thinking Hands Create Success’ brand campaign sought to significantly enhance the ITE brand and improve public perception of ITE as a global leader in technical education. Prejudice still lingered from long-held perceptions that ITE was a place for those who were not ‘academically-inclined’ or bright enough to go to junior colleges and polytechnics; that technically inclined students did not enjoy as good prospects as those who were academically inclined.

Following the launch of the previous campaigns between 1998 and 2004, the latest effort sought to communicate emotional aspects of an ITE education – that the character of the institute itself was embodied by the ITE student. The strategy was to put a face to ITE, to depict its students as having the technical and psychological training to prepare them for future employment. The challenge was to communicate that being technically inclined was not a failure but rather a relevant option for today’s knowledge-based economy.

The creative strategy was based on the idea that the ITE student has the potential to be equipped with employment skills, given the right opportunity, tools and environment. He is not inferior to an academically-inclined student, and the challenge was to communicate this and to break the bias long held in the public’s mind about technically-inclined students. The ITE student thinks with his hands and absorbs knowledge, processes, and thinks, putting action into his hands – Thinking Hands. Hands that can prove themselves, that are skilled and adept.

The strategy served to correct negative perceptions, to break the mould of ‘soiled’, blue-collar hands and becomes the foundation to build the ITE student’s pride in his achievements. Highlighting the potential of students, their aspirations, capabilities and talents distinguished them as a special breed of students with the right prospects for acquiring industry-relevant skills for employability. ‘Thinking Hands’ moves away from branding the institution itself as the enabler or facilitator and focuses on the student and his potential, thereby empowering him.

Key messages were set against a backdrop of innovation and enterprise, and within a technologically advanced and modern institute. Care was taken to avoid an execution that was either too sophisticated or too literal as this would have alienated the target segments and reinforced existing stereotypes that the ITE student was not intelligent enough to grasp the brand messages. The priority was to create public empathy and inject credibility into the brand, as well as to engage the prospective student and his parents, with the objective of building belief in the benefits of an ITE education.

Based on an independent qualitative research study held soon after the campaign launched, and benchmarked against the previous years’ research results, the outcome was positive. ITE’s image among the public improved, resulting in perceptions that are more positive – technically-inclined students were equipped with knowledge and skills for the labour market; graduates enjoyed good employment prospects and starting salaries.

Prospective students’ opinions improved where employment prospects of ITE graduates were concerned, with 87% recalling the advertising. The campaign was also successful in reaching parents of prospective students, with 2 out of 3 having seen the ads. Employers continued to regard ITE well, particularly in skills equipment, facilities and course relevancy and range. Existing ITE students believed the institute has modern teaching and learning facilities, and encourages creativity, innovation and research. ITE graduates perceived the institute as a provider of relevant courses for working adults.

The most significant result of the campaign was its ability to reach national level recognition through the Prime Minister’s reference to the campaign and his comments on ITE’s success in bringing technical education to a new level. This has resulted in post-secondary education being placed on the government’s agenda.