How do you relocate a 119-year-old brand across a continent?

Drexel University Sacramento

Drexel University Sacramento - How do you relocate a 119-year-old brand across a continent?

Drexel University, one of the nation's largest and oldest private institutions, set out to establish nine onsite graduate programs in Sacramento, California with an eye toward something grander — someday establishing a full-blown bicoastal university.

Conventional Wisdom

Demand for quality graduate programs (MBA, nursing, education) is high —and Drexel University is well known across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

Conventional wisdom held that simply “opening the doors for business” in downtown Sacramento would be enough to attract the right fit students and turn them into applicants and deposits.

Elliance Perspective

Brands don’t always translate or travel. Even a modest launch of nine graduate programs at the Center for Graduate Studies in downtown Sacramento presented two clear challenges:

  • Would an aggressive, largely unknown East Coast education brand translate to the California market?
  • Could (private) Drexel compete head-to-head against California’s state-funded public universities?

Elliance Approach

Reincarnating the Drexel Brand

First, we set about reincarnating the Drexel brand for a new market. Interviews with graduate students hit upon a common theme — a desire for greater freedom and flexibility at early-to-mid career milestones. The homepage headline, Real Freedom Revolutionary Thinking, gave relevance and credibility to a Philadelphia brand landing on a new shore.

Map a Search Engine Plan

Next, we mapped a search engine plan and evaluated a large pool of keyword clusters, sifting traffic and difficult data for the most cost-effective and productive keyword phrase mix.

Apply Conversion Techniques

Finally, Elliance applied conversion techniques across the site architecture, page-level design, information design, content strategy and copy. Where the site’s previous architecture and design settled for page visits, Elliance consciously drove traffic into a decision funnel, insisting on inquiries, applications and deposits as the only real measure of success.


Drexel Sacramento does a better job of revealing the strength and personality of this Philadelphia brand — in part because we unleashed the Drexel Dragon logo. The brand’s symbolic strength, the dragon, had slowly been cropped, quieted and otherwise stripped of its command. During the initial launch of the Sacramento programs, a modest search engine marketing campaign generated 9,000 decision-ready buyers to the site each month. Branding, calls to action and content have been orchestrated to turn silent advantages or disadvantages into market strengths.

The conversion machine worked.
Enrollments exceeded projections.


Many eyes within higher education are now watching the Drexel Sacramento story unfold. Some consider it the biggest experiment in higher education today.