Branding campaign plans book for McDonald Observatory. Presented in Fall 2009 in Advertising Campaigns.
Branding campaign plans book for McDonald Observatory. Presented in Fall 2009 in Advertising Campaigns.
Kendra Gunn - Chris Kim -
Project Manager Account Executive
“My favorite pajamas are “I won a hot dog eating
Sponge Bob Square Pants.” competition in high school.”
Anita Demla - Mary Feng -
Media Planner Creative Director
“I am secretly a Bollywood “My pet turtles were taken
Pop Star.” from the UT turtle pond.”
Nick Mayfield - Wes Muniz -
PR Strategist PR Strategist
“I was voted 2008 GQ Man “I’ve been known to have
of the Year.” a secret ninja alias... but
only on the weekends.”
The development and implementation of SuperNova’s campaign Recommendations
strategy will prevail as the most effective and resourceful SuperNova distributed the $50,000 budget to create unique
approach in completing the campaign objectives for the McDonald strategies for each market, as well as improved some of McDonald
Observatory. Observatory’s current efforts.
Target Market • Create new logo, improve current website and increase
One of the main factors in developing our campaign was reaching online efforts
out to McDonald Observatory’s key constituents. Because of the Higher Education and Research
vast amount of services and products tthe facility provides, the • Sponsor an Astronomy Convention
target market is divided into three different segments: The University of Texas Community
• Movie nights with free McDonald Observatory t-shirts and
1. The University of Texas Community YouTube contest
2. The Texas School System The Texas School System
3. Higher Education and Research • Book covers and astronomy projects
Objectives • New social media efforts and paid advertising
To achieve the campaign objectives and reach the target markets,
SuperNova created a new logo based on information gathered Through the strategies tailored for each target market, the McDon-
from extensive primary and secondary research. The new logo ald Observatory will achieve its marketing objectives of increased
will be used to create a cohesive brand that will encompass the brand awareness and an association with The University of Texas.
University of Texas at Austin, McDonald Observatory, and the In addition, the campaign will utilize resourceful means to achieve
Department of Astronomy, while also increasing brand more than the planned objectives, prompting the construction of
awareness for the McDonald Observatory. The logo will also instill a legendary concept and brand identity. Overall these efforts will
values of McDonald Observatory as a high quality astronomical better position McDonald Observatory for future promotional
research facility. campaigns and support.
The SuperNova Group has set out to create a one-year $50,000 branding campaign for McDonald Observatory,
creating a cohesive brand between McDonald Observatory, The University of Texas at Austin and its Department
of Astronomy. This campaign includes increasing brand awareness in Texas and in the nation, developing a
new logo that co-brands McDonald Observatory with The University of Texas at Austin and its Department
of Astronomy, and implementing the new integrated logo to existing constituents, future donors, and other
new constituents. It will also seek to increase awareness of McDonald Observatory as a place of excellent and
important scientific research, a major contributor to science education in Texas and around the country, and
a great place to visit. Through meticulous research and strategy development, The SuperNova Group has
developed an integrated communications campaign to introduce the revamped McDonald Observatory brand.
COMPANY ANALYSIS In 1926 The University of Texas was endowed with $800,000 by Texan William McDonald to build an observatory for
CONSUMER ANALYSIS the study of stars and “the promotion of astronomy,” and in 1933 McDonald Observatory was established (texasescapes.com).
The University of Texas at Austin has solely operated it since 1963 and the UT astronomy department currently shares
personnel and resources with it. Just like the university itself, McDonald Observatory is a leader in its field as one of
PRODUCT ANALYSIS the world’s leading centers for astronomical research, teaching, and public education and outreach.
The physical observatory is actually quite far from the doors of the University of Texas. Located approximately eight
hours from Austin in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, McDonald Observatory enjoys the darkest night skies of
any major observatory in North America. With up to 130,000 visitors each year, these skies make it one of the most
visited tourism sites in Texas (mcdonaldobservatory.org/news).
As far as astronomical research, McDonald’s state of the art instrumentation has given the observatory a leading edge
over the years. In 1939 its 2.1-m telescope was the second largest telescope in the world, its 1969 107-inch
telescope has been the second most cited telescope in astronomical literature, and in 1997 its 433-inch telescope
was the second largest in the world, now currently the fourth. On top of such success, McDonald Observatory has
received many prestigious awards from American and European astronomical societies, and The UT Department of
Astronomy was ranked among the top five national public university astronomy departments by the National
Academy of Sciences.
Currently McDonald Observatory recognizes it responsibility to maintain is public role as a major astronomical
observatory and PhD granting institution and continues to develop its scientific research and multi-faceted
international public outreach programs. Current projects include the Dark Energy Experiment, the Giant Magellan
Telescope project, and various space missions such as the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Cassini: Saturn, and Deep
Impact: Comet Collision.
COMPANY ANALYSIS The McDonald Observatory consumers fall within four main areas of the observatory’s reach - education, research,
CONSUMER ANALYSIS donors, and tourism - and in general visitors tend to hail from the Fort Davis, Dallas and Houston areas.
According the McDonald staff, the K-12 segment is McDonald Observatory’s most important secondary market. These
COMPETITOR ANALYSIS consumers, who hail mainly from the Austin and Fort Davis areas, are hundreds of teachers and thousands of students from
both public and private schools who utilize the observatory’s educational resources in order to learn, teach, and promote
BRAND EVALUATION astronomy. The students visit for field experiences and teachers pursue professional development programs. According to the
field experiences spreadsheet, most of this traffic hits in May, April, and October, but in general is heavier in the spring. The
student visitors are predominately white or Hispanic and are equally split between male and female. Grade-level-wise, in the
2008-2009 season, 26% of the student visitors were between K-5th, 43% were between 6th-8th, and 32% were between 9th-12th.
In addition to physical traffic, teachers, students, and regional education service centers across the state utilize McDonald resources
via video conferencing ($100 for interactive and $60 for view-only) or via free materials online (mcdonaldobservatory.org/lfmo).
Most of the video conferencing occurs in the spring and most of the participating schools reign from the DFW area or out of
state. Astronomy Day videoconferences, in particular, in May 2006 reached over 8,000 people (over 160 classrooms), more than
twice the amount of students McDonald reached in the entire 2008-2009 season.
Additional consumers of McDonald’s educational programs are reached through McDonald Observatory’s media vehicles.
StarDate Radio reaches over two million listeners daily in North America and Europe and its Spanish subsidiary, Universo,
reaches over 250,000 listeners per day. The StarDate magazine also reaches an additional 10,000 subscribers.
The McDonald Observatory attracts researchers and astronomers from all over to utilize the observatory’s advanced facilities
and state-of-the-art technology. This includes research scientists, other universities, and astronomy students and faculty from
the University of Texas. They all share a common interest and background in astronomy and tend to maintain active research
efforts in virtually all areas of modern astronomy.
These individuals might not necessarily utilize the observatory’s resources directly, but they contribute funds to help research
endeavors, either on a one time or regular basis. Most of these individuals come from the Texas Area - Austin, Dallas and
Houston in particular. The Annual Membership Program (sold through the Visitors Center, StarDate Magazine, direct mail, and
other resources) is one means of reaching and maintaining a relationship with these consumers. Other donors include the Texas
state budget and from scientists at the observatory.
Up to 130,000 people annually visit McDonald Observatory. While students and teachers make up a large portion of these
visitors, the remainder is attributed to general tourists. Considering its West Texas location, McDonald Observatory is most likely
to attract people who live within a reasonable distance or individuals and families who are vacationing in the area or passing
through the area on vacation. Other local attractions these tourists might be visiting include places like Big Bend or Fort Davis.
COMPANY ANALYSIS The current market environment of the astronomy industry involves three important areas: telescopic competition,
CONSUMER ANALYSIS monetary spending, and economic activity. Each factor affects McDonald Observatory’s current astronomy activity.
PRODUCT ANALYSIS Telescopic Competition
McDonald Observatory’s Hobby-Eberly Telescope is ranked fourth for the world’s largest optical telescope. The newly built Gran
Telescopio Canarias on the Canary Islands of Spain ranks first, Keck telescope in Hawaii ranks second and the South African Large
BRAND EVALUATION Telescope in South Africa ranks third (nineplanets.org). While the Hobby is currently highly competitive on the international
level, advances in the field will soon drop it below the top five. Hawaii was chosen in July as the site for the world’s largest telescope
and a partnership of European countries plans to build an even bigger telescope, the European Extremely Large Telescope, both
to be completed around 2018 (physorg.com). McDonald’s role in leading industry projects and experiments, such as the Dark
Energy Experiment and the Giant Magellan Telescope, and its local support system are key to maintaining a competitive place at
the international forefront of cosmic discovery.
Astronomy funding derives from a plethora of sources including
state budgets, affiliated universities, the National Science
Foundation (NSF), individual and private donors, and more. These
sources, though, vary dramatically on an individual level. The
American Astronomical Society has compiled information released
by the NSF into a chart that shows where astronomy spending
stands on a national level. The chart shows the percentage of
dollars spent on three major scientific fields, physical science,
physics, and astronomy, with respect to the United States’ GDP
(blog.aas.org). Clearly astronomy does not reign within the science
industry, but, in comparison to physics and physical science, the
spending has remained fairly consistent over the years, even
during our recent recession, emphasizing a continuous need for
The U.S. economy has been in a recession since December 2007. Though it caused major damage on a national level, mainly due
to the housing downturn and job loss, the outlook for research funding, especially in Texas, has been much more positive. First
off, funding for research and development (R&D) actually increased during 2009, despite the drop in overall growth percent-
ages. According to the Battelle Memorial Institute and R&D Magazine, who compiles the annual R&D report, funding for R&D
in the U.S. was increased to $383 billion during the fiscal year that ended in March of 2009 (allbusiness.com). The U.S. stimulus
package helped aid this boost. Secondly, the recession hit Texas much later than it did the other 49 states. The Texas economy
did not feel affects until early 2009 and as of now, according to top government economists, the recession officially ended at the
start of the 2009 4th quarter. The shorter recession period will allow the state an easier sail to recovery (theglobeandmail.com).
COMPANY ANALYSIS The McDonald Observatory provides 3 different services to the public: Research facilities, educational programs, and
CONSUMER ANALYSIS tourist attractions. Each service provides for and interests different target markets.
PRODUCT ANALYSIS McDonald Observatory is a well-established research unit of the University of Texas at Austin that attracts faculty members,
COMPETITOR ANALYSIS research scientists, university students, and others with an academic interest and background in astronomy. The use of McDonald’s
telescopes is a very competitve process, but nonetheless, many will travel to Fort Davis to develop their research projects.
The McDonald Observatory offers a wide range of powerful telescopes and electronic instruments to astronomers and
researchers, including both small large telescopes. There are also guest telescopes that other organizations have placed at the
Observatory complex. McDonald’s three largest telescopes at the complex are:
• Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET)
• Harlan J. Smith Telescope
• Otto Struve Telescope
Education & Outreach
The McDonald Observatory is also a place that educates teachers and students and stimulates awareness and excitement
towards general science and the field of astronomy. Public astronomy education and outreach is promoted through programs
such as extensive teacher workshops, video classroom capabilities, lesson plans special programs for school groups and more
The following tools are used to inspire teachers and students to love astronomy:
• Innovative science curricula • Online Resources
• Distance-learning programs • Student field experiences
• Radio programs • Professional development workshops for teachers
Other outreach programs operated by McDonald Observatory include StarDate and Universo (international public radio
programs), StarDate magazine, web sites such as StarDate Online, and a free monthly email newsletter called SkyTips.
There are a variety of public activities offered by the Frank N. Bash Visitors Center and the Visitors Center Public Observatory:
Daily Tours - Free, 90 minute tours that look at both the large research telescopes and the operations of the observatory
Solar Viewing Program - Live viewing of the Sun from a multimedia theater to see sunspots, flares, prominences, and more
Star Parties – Held every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evening; view a tour of the constellations, the moon, planets, stars,
galaxies, and other objects through McDonald’s large telescopes
Twilight Program - An engaging, 60-70 minute learning experience before each Star Party that discusses which planets are and
are not curcurrently visible, and, in general, where to find planets in the nighttime sky
Lunar Viewing Program - New program focusing on the Moon that includes telescope observing, staff presentations and guided
activities. Typical observing targets include large craters, mountain ranges, other geological formations and Apollo landing sites
Sources: mcdonaldobservatory.org/research, mcdonaldobservatory.org/support, mcdonaldobservatory.org/visitors
COMPANY ANALYSIS McDonald Observatory’s direct competitors are top-of-mind astronomy industry giants who are very accessible within the United
CONSUMER ANALYSIS States or online, remain cutting-edge in research and facilities, have large support and funding systems and high traffic, and offer
educational programs to the public.
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The indirect competition includes any local Texas educational institutions and museums that publicly offer convenient, accessible
space or science related activities. They especially attract McDonald’s prime educational K-12 market. Examples include the Dallas
Museum of Nature and Science, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Austin Children’s Museum. Dallas, Houston, and
Austin facilities are especially big threats since their accessibility and prime locations can easily attract a large number of visitors.
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COMPANY ANALYSIS Current Advertising and Promotion
CONSUMER ANALYSIS McDonald Observatory’s advertising and promotion mainly consists of public relations efforts. It sends out dozens of news
MARKET ANALYSIS releases to major national media, daily and weekly Texas newspapers, and to local West Texas Media via external and internal
listserves, and informs meteorologists of current astronomy events via StarDate Media. It also keeps an updated news website
PRODUCT ANALYSIS with images and media clips. Other online efforts include an updated Facebook fan page, a less updated Twitter page, and the
COMPETITOR ANALYSIS free Skytips email newsletter. McDonald has made several attempts to increase its presence in the advanced educational and
astronomy realm as well: hosting film crews for spots in science documentaries, implementing an astronomer speaker series at
BRAND EVALUATION museums and universities to promote the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, organizing video conferences with Texas schools
for Astronomy Day, and holding trade show booths or press conferences at American Astronomical Society meetings. Other
various advertising and promotional efforts include McDonald Observatory mentions on StarDate Radio programs, StarDate
magazine subscriptions, and brochures in travel centers around the state.
The McDonald Observatory website is a portal of information for potential researchers, students, school administrators and the
general public to get a better understanding of the observatory. The homepage is quite dull with basic font and a color mix of
blues, tan, white, and black. There is no great predominance of the logo, the McDonald Observatory name, or The University
of Texas association. The page is filled with pictures, news, and a stargazing tip placed at the very bottom. While the overall site
covers practically any information related to McDonald Observatory, there is a redundancy of topics due multiple repeating and
overlapping links and tabs, such as “support,” “friends of McDonald,” and “student programs.” The website appears fairly simple
to navigate, but the usability can be very confusing. For example, when one clicks on “Astronomy at McDonald Observatory”
under the “Research” tab, he or she ends up at the official University of Texas Department of Astronomy website. This is
confusing (a) since there was no obvious transition to the astronomy department website and (b) since people may be unaware
of McDonald Observatory’s association with the University of Texas at Austin. Then, once on the department website, it almost
seems as though it is a second McDonald website. The information and links transition between the department’s website and
McDonald’s website, but the only actual link back to the McDonald Observatory homepage is located on an entirely separate tab
labeled “public site.”
McDonald Observatory’s current logo consists of a curvy line that represents the high hills that McDonald’s three observatories sit
on. There are three small shapes, representing the observatories themselves, as well as a star that sits high above the hills. It is a
basic design with one color (sometimes navy, black, or white), a good combination for a logo, but potential for improvement exists.
While the image is simple enough in terms of capturing the essence of McDonald Observatory, many people are unaware of what
an actual observatory looks like or, more specifically, what McDonald Observatory looks like. This has caused some
question regarding the logo’s meaning.
Currently the logo is often paired with the copy “McDonald Observatory” and “The University of Texas at Austin,” but its presence
in McDonald Observatory material is often minuscule and its wording layout often varies. Specific examples of
inconsistencies are below.
Top left corner of the McDonald’s home page: Bottom left corner of StarDate Online:
Bottom left corner of the Dark Energy site: A tab on The UT Astronomy Department site:
One of the primary research strategies that SuperNova used was an 11 question online survey that included both open-ended
and multiple-choice questions. The survey was distributed mainly through Facebook and a total of 273 responses were collected.
A majority of the respondents were college students living in Austin, TX, with an average age of almost 23 years old. The actual
survey questions, responses, and response data can be found in the appendix section. Key conclusions from the survey are listed
• 71% of the respondents would only be willing to drive less than 2 hours to star gaze, while only 2% would actually travel
for 8 hours or more.
• 89% have never visited McDonald Observatory and 66% have never even heard of it
• Of the 34% who had heard of McDonald Observatory, only 1/3 knew where the observatory was located
• Those who had visited the observatory were mainly traveling with family, were on vacation, or both
• 77% of respondents did not know that McDonald Observatory was associated with the University of Texas
• Those who knew of the UT association mainly learned of it through friends or the astronomy department (students,
faculty, and classes)
• Only 4% of respondents would be very likely to visit the McDonald Observatory in the future
Considering that students are at the heart of the University of Texas, it is detrimental for a university subsidiary to lack awareness
and support from student population, and according to the survey, McDonald Observatory lacks both of these. In general
respondents seemed to be unaware of (a) McDonald Observatory’s existence and (b) its association with the University of Texas at
Austin. Currently interest is very low.
The Supernova Group held three focus groups consisting of seven, seven, and six UT students. The sessions were each
approximately an hour in length and explored students awareness, thoughts, and opinions of astronomy, McDonald Observatory,
and potential new logo designs. The following information summarizes the conclusions developed from the three focus groups.
To lead into the discussion of astronomy and McDonald, students were first asked what came to mind when they thought of (a)
science (b) astronomy and (c) observatories. In regards to science, most students mentioned biology or chemistry topics, others
mentioned technology or colors such as yellow, green, and royal blue, and a few mentioned research, planets, and orbits. As far
as astronomy, most students referenced typical outer space concepts such as stars, constellations, the sky and planets. Telescopes
were also a popular mention, including specifically the Hubble Telescope. And finally for observatories, less detail was used, mainly
mentions of general astronomy, stargazing, telescopes, and big dome buildings. McDonald Observatory or a “UT observatory in
West Texas” was quickly listed in the discussion.
As far as actual visits to observatories, only two students had visited. One went in grade school with her family to a place near San
Diego and another went on a field trip when younger (it was unknowingly to McDonald). The listing of names of known
observatories among participants was almost as rare as the visits. Two participants listed McDonald Observatory and one
mentioned a random observatory in California. An odd finding was that a few people were confusing science places, such as
planetariums, with observatories, not sure which was which.
McDonald Observatory was familiar to only a few participants, and its exact location was familiar to even less. And of these few
participants who identified McDonald only one knew that McDonald was actually part of the UT system whereas the others knew
that it was or was possibly associated with UT.
In general the idea of visiting an observatory was not very appealing to the focus groups. The participants had no interest in
stargazing unless maybe they were camping or out in the country, and they did not believe traveling more than an hour to an
observatory was worth the effort. Only one person said they would travel more than ten hours. Clearly the UT affiliation did not
help McDonald Observatory’s position in attracting university students to visit its remote Ft. Davis location. Most agreed that the
UT affiliation would increase pride and perception, but that it would not change their decision about visiting because the final
benefit, or the stars, was not great enough.
While currently reluctant to travel the eight hours to McDonald Observatory, participants did mention a few things that might
entice or interest them towards astronomy or McDonald Observatory: parties, stopping on a road trip, being with friends or family,
witnessing a once in a life time unique/big event such as aliens, comets, or an eclipse, an emotional appeal to the observatory, or
better education of the astronomy subject in order to practice it first hand in the field.
Towards the end of the focus group the subject transitioned from general astronomy and visiting McDonald to opinions
regarding the observatory’s current logo and potential new logos. Participants evaluated the logos based on their general
appeal, reference to the University of Texas, and reference to astronomy.
The original logo was positively accepted due to its simplicity and its
underlying meaning and reference to the observatory, but in general it was thought to be
unmemorable. Some participants did not understand the presence of the three
observatories and referenced graveyards, tombstones, and even Christmas
when analyzing them.
The “MCD” logo was the least favorite for all three of the focus groups. In general it lacks any
meaning or portrayal of what McDonald Observatory truly represents. Students thought it
needed a more representative image like and observatory.
The “three observatories” logos did not fair too favorably with the
groups either. Few understood what the observatories even were
and called them names such as “trashcans,” “water bottles,” and
“shellfish.” While the logo layout was supposed to represent the
actual look of the three observatories sitting on the Davis
Mountains, group participants just did not understand the “s-line,”
or spacing. Also, there were negative attitudes toward using the
longhorn due to lack of international recognition and an overall “athletic” feel. Most importantly, though, everyone agreed that
these logos were too cluttered and complicated, and that the look should be simpler.
The final set of
“shooting star” logos
was the favorite among
the three focus group
though a multitude of
regarding edits. Some preferred the thicker lines which add depth, others thought the thinner stripes were easier on the eye,
and a few thought the multiple lines were too busy. Once again there was confusion regarding the look of the observatory and
the use of the longhorn logo was rejected. While the star was preferred due to its relevance to astronomy, some thought the
burnt orange color was not enough to carry over a connection with The University of Texas.
Some general conclusions were drawn from the logo evaluations. First, the inclusion of a star is better than the use of the
longhorn logo. While the students agreed that the longhorn is the most recognized symbol of The University of Texas, its athletic
connotation is not appropriate for McDonald Observatory values. Secondly, many people do not know what an actual observatory
looks like. The students suggested that some sort of skinny telescope pointing at a star in the sky might help in the recognition of
a domed observatory as a telescope. Thirdly, while the use of a star is most representative of astronomy, the use of a Texas star
and the burnt orange color alone is not enough to portray an association with The University of Texas. One student suggested
adding words to help. And finally, the simpler, the better - minimal lines and a simple design are best for a widely used logo.
Based on both primary and secondary research SuperNova has developed a firm
backbone to the one-year McDonald Observatory branding campaign. These
elements include the campaign’s target markets, marketing objectives and
measurement, the four P’s (product, price, place and promotion), and a new
logo design. The marketing recommendations are the essential foundation for
the implementation of future communication strategies.
The University of The Texas Higher Education
Texas Community School System and Research
If McDonald Observatory is to gain Considering education is a key value The McDonald Observatory is one of
higher association with The University and focus of McDonald Observatory the major leaders in astronomy and
of Texas at Austin, it is imperative to and considering the thousands of research and to achieve credibility
target the UT Community. Current schools and large school districts among the industry, the observatory
students are specifically important that are located throughout Texas, must target those directly involved
since they are the heart of the school. McDonald Observatory has a prime in astronomy higher education and
Awareness currently remains very opportunity to reach out to Texas’ research. This includes students,
low, but a better a relationship can young minds. This young kindergarten professors and researchers on both a
easily be fostered through the shared through twelfth grade group, who can national and international level. Since
connection of being a part of the elite be targeted via schoolteachers, is still these people already have a keen
University of Texas system. Both alumni developing their interests and by interest in the field, they should be
and students and alumni are full of reaching them at an elementary age, the easiest of the targets to reach.
Longhorn pride, so any university McDonald Observatory can assist in McDonald Observatory is intricately
subsidiary will instantly resonate building those interests in the field involved in new discoveries and
positive attitudes. These positive of astronomy. Such interests will hope- research and the observatory should
attitudes are key in developing a fully continue through adolescence further push such image and brand.
strong base and support system for and adulthood. This will better position the facility
McDonald Observatory. in its future project participation.
1. Increase brand awareness for McDonald Observatory by 75%
2. Increase awareness of the relationship between the McDonald Observatory and the
University of Texas by 50%
3. Create a cohesive brand identity that will portray the McDonald Observatory as a high quality
astronomical research facility as well as a destination for great discoveries in astronomy
By conducting primary research before and after the campaign implementation, such as surveys or focus groups,
brand awareness and attitude can be measured. Online website activity can be tracked using Google Analytics
and other measurements, such as monetary donations and visitation levels, can simply be monitored by the
McDonald Observatory records.
McDonald Observatory’s array of products, such as souvenirs, Currently McDonald Observatory distributes its product in
visitors’ passes, and video conferencing, are all offered at various, numerous ways: the Internet, videoconferences, the physical
typically affordable prices. The prices for visitation are neither facility, magazines, etc. The various channels are great, but
high enough nor low enough to impact the amount of visitors, technology, especially the Internet, is the biggest, most important
but the cost of traveling does. The two biggest big cost obstacles way to distribute the product. SuperNova will focus increasing
for McDonald Observatory are the price of traveling to the facility the brand awareness and brand association with the University of
and the concept of time equals money. Since McDonald Texas at Austin by redesigning the current website to be more user
Observatory’s location cannot be changed, SuperNova will focus friendly and professional, linking with schools and universities via
on lower cost ideas to attract new support such as better videoconferencing, and focusing on social media. This will enable
connecting StarDate to McDonald Observatory and attracting McDonald Observatory to reach its current markets as well as
general funding support and awareness via online efforts. additional Texas markets and even national or international markets.
To further establish the observatory as an elite educational
The McDonald Observatory provides three main services to the program, SuperNova will push and promote astronomical
public: research facilities, educational programs, and tourist discoveries and StarDate media on the McDonald Observatory
attractions. The wide variety of offerings are sufficient enough to website and on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter,
satisfy each target’s needs, so adding completely new products is and YouTube. YouTube specifically will be utilized for people to
currently unnecessary. It is important for McDonald observatory visualize amazing scenery and get a glimpse of the McDonald
to utilize its current efforts, such as emphasizing the Dark Energy Observatory experience. After the website is redesigned, more
Experiment in promotion or adjusting the website for user ease information about Dark Energy and other projects will be
and attraction, to better reach its targets’ needs. Since physical available and direct links will connect the public to McDonald
traffic can be very limited, the biggest and easiest product realm Observatory’s social media. To increase awareness SuperNova
for McDonald Observatory to utilize would be online services. will mainly emphasize public relations efforts such as contests
and events as well as some advertising in notable media.
Based on both secondary and primary research findings, the Supernova Group designed a new logo that encompasses the core values of McDonald
Observatory. The new look adds an overall sophistication to the McDonald brand and helps associate the brand with the University of Texas and its
Department of Astronomy. The burnt orange color in conjunction with “The University of Texas” and the use of the university font reiterates this association. “At
Austin” was excluded from “The University of Texas” copy so that readers would be less likely to confuse McDonald Observatory’s West Texas location with the
University of Texas’ Austin location.
The logo is simple and clean and can easily be used with or without color. The design includes a shooting star, which represents a broad outlook of astronomy
and McDonald’s offerings, and a simple dome shape,which represents the actual observatories. The simple dome shape supported by the words
“McDonald Observatory” replaces any detailed observatory portrayal that might cause logo misinterpretation or clutter.
SuperNova’s communication strategies were strategically built for McDonald
Observatory’s branding objectives. Remaining within the $50,000 budget, these
strategies emphasize online and nontraditional efforts, where word-of-mouth
and buzz will be the main ingredients to spreading the McDonald Observatory
name. The following sections discuss recommendations for improvements to
current McDonald Observatory efforts, strategies specifically for the three dif-
ferent target markets, interactive endeavors, and measurement.
The McDonald Observatory (MO) currently has numerous ways to reach its audiences. For example, participation
in various astronomical conferences, as well as the StarDate program, reach the higher level education
audience, while social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter, target younger people. SuperNova
believes MO can better utilize its current marketing efforts to create more brand awareness and a stronger
association between MO and the University of Texas. General improvement suggestions regard the logo, website,
social media and StarDate.
Current Efforts: The logo is placed in different spots on MO material with varying color and copy styles.
Problem 1: According to the primary research analysis, the current logo is not well liked.
Recommendations: • Implement the new logo created by SuperNova, a simplified design that combines
the star and observatory into one image. The previous logo forced the text to be
minimized underneath the image, but the new, simple image allows the text to be
bigger, thus making the brand more visible.
Problem 2: The current logo is not prominent enough to establish a strong brand awareness or
association throughout the multiple websites administered by the MO.
Recommendations: • The logo needs to be bigger and more visible on all websites associated with the
MO, including the StarDate Online and Dark Energy Experiment websites,
Facebook, and Twitter.
• Make the new logo and copy more visible on the homepage by enlarging it and
placing it at the top center of the page.
Current Efforts: There are two different websites regarding the MO: one in association with the UT
Department of Astronomy and one as the official McDonald Observatory site. The UT
website is geared more towards academia while the official website is more for the
Problem 1: The two different sites are not easily distinguishable due to repetitive information and
Recommendations: • The “McDonald Observatory” tab on the department website should contain a
summary (minimal information) about McDonald Observatory and an obvious link
directly to the McDonald Observatory homepage (“public site”).
• The links on the left of the page should be minimized or removed and other
astron omy-specific details should be moved to the “research section” or “
hobby-eberly telescope section.”
• Limit the department website to only academic, department information and criteria.
• Create a “University of Texas Astronomy” tab on the MO site with summary
information and a link to send the visitor to the UT Astronomy Department website.
Problem 2: The official Mc Donald Observatory site is not as visually professional or organized as possible.
Recommendations: • Reduce the number of links and remove repetitive links from both sites to lessen
confusion and information redundancy. Potentially combine the different rows and
columns into one set of links consisting of categories such as “Support,” “Visitors,”
“Classroom,” “Research,” “News,” “UT Astronomy Department,” and “StarDate.”
• All pages should have consistent font, font size, colors, and layout.
• Enhance the site by adding background color and by eliminating text-heavy pages,
thus creating more user engagement and eye appeal.
Current Efforts: The MO maintains an active Facebook fan page that informs its followers of news and updates
about the observatory as well as other astronomy news. The MO also has a Twitter page.
Problem 1: There is a lack of maintenance of the sites, especially regarding active Twitter updates.
Recommendations: • The MO should use Tweet Deck to manage both their Facebook and Twitter pages.
Tweet Deck offers many unique features such as tracking mentions and syncing updates.
• Use Tweet Deck to measure social media presence. Tweet Deck allows one to search
user comments for specific terms. Each term search column will automatically update
when a new status includes a specific term, such as “McDonald Observatory.”
• To reduce hassle, synchronize Twitter and Facebook updates (photos, comments, etc.)
via Tweet Deck, a Facebook Application, or another alternative source.
Problem 2: MO is not proactive in featuring their social media and attempting to gain followers and fans.
Recommendations: • Expand reach and presence by proactively following Tweeters, requesting Facebook
fans, frequently updating, and posting more interactive comments.
• Place visible Twitter and Facebook hyperlink icons near the top of the MO homepage to
help interconnect McDonald Observatory’s interactive efforts.
Current Efforts: McDonald Observatory has created its own media entity, which provides astronomical
information to its market through vehicles such as the Internet, radio, and print. As far as
StarDate radio programs, the only verbal association with McDonald Observatory is a MO
name mention after each program.
Problem 1: MO’s media vehicles do not prominently feature the association between McDonald
Observatory and The University of Texas.
Recommendations: • The new logo should be added to or replace the top banner to unify all entities by the
MO, and the copy should be enlarged to better display brand association.
• The McDonald Observatory hyperlinks, which hide in the bottom right corner of the
StarDate Online site, should also be moved to a more visible location on the top, left
side of the homepage.
Problem 2: StarDate Online lacks a professional look, lacks information on the homepage, and overall is
Recommendations: • Adding brief astronomical current events or news, similar to McDonald
Observatory’s homepage, will to provide more information for the StarDate Online
homepage. This will capture initial engagement rather than forcing the viewer to
click to see any infomation.
• Links that transfer in and out of the StarDate Online and MO website, such as
“StarDate Magazine” under the “Gift Shop” tab or “Friends of McDonald” should be
better transitioned to ease confusion for viewer.
• Reorganize general clutter from the homepage.
Considering that McDonald Observatory is a first rate observatory in astronomical education and research, it
must present itself as so to the astronomy industry. The higher education and research realm should already be
knowledgeable of the astronomy subject and industry players, including McDonald Observatory, so the
observatory itself must focus on top of mind awareness among these consumers rather than general awareness.
Recommendation: Currently McDonald Observatory participates in the American Astronomical Society (AAS)
conferences where the facility hosts a booth in the exhibit hall and astronomers give talks
or poster presentations of their research. McDonald Observatory should continue
sponsorship of an astronomy-related convention. In addition to this, MO should host a
cocktail party for attendees.
Sponsored Cocktail Party
• Set up a booth or show room at the conference to provide champagne, finger foods, and
refreshments for attendees
Marketing Objective(s): 1, 2
Intended Effects: While McDonald Observatory currently participates in AAS conferences, its presence blends with
other astronomy-related participants and sponsors. A more engaging effort, such as the cocktail
party, will make McDonald Observatory stand out and will foster positive brand attitudes among
the higher education and research community. Future attendees will then look forward to
McDonald Observatory’s presence at future conventions.
Cost: $10,000 (conference sponsorship)
The McDonald Observatory lacks awareness and brand association with The University of Texas. By focusing on
building a better relationship with the UT community via promotional efforts, the McDonald Observatory has a
better chance for a lasting impression on the target.
Recommendation: Sponsor movie nights at the Union Theater on the UT campus during Astronomy Week. The
movies shown during Astronomy Week will have a “space” theme to them (i.e. Armageddon,
Apollo 13, Star Trek, etc.). The first four days will have pre-set movie selections and the final
movie will be voted for online. The final day will also include a big party featuring food and
drinks. The event and voting contest will be promoted via sources such as Facebook, Twitter,
and campus flyers.
• Distribute 3,000 flyers around campus starting 2 weeks prior to Astronomy Week to
• Create a Facebook event for promotion and for students to vote for the final movie
• Free McDonald Observatory astronomy T-shirts will be handed out over the entire week
Marketing Objective(s): 1, 2, 3
Intended Effects: The different tactics used to advertise this event will make students and faculty around campus
more aware of McDonald Observatory and its association with the University of Texas. This event
will also create a favorable attitude towards the McDonald Observatory.
Cost: $1,500 ($300 licensing fee per movie x 5 movies)
$840 ($168 Union fee per movie screening x 5 movies)
$360 (3000 flyers x $.12 per flyer for 1000+ flyers)
Recommendation: College students love free t-shirts; therefore, SuperNova will create McDonald Observatory
branded shirts to give out to UT students and faculty.
• During Astronomy Week’s movie nights and via UT Astronomy organizations
• Shirts with both a front and back design of two colors
Marketing Objective(s): 1, 2
Intended Effects: College students love receiving and wearing free t-shirts, thus this effort will create a positive
relationship between the students and the McDonald Observatory. By distributing branded
t-shirts, McDonald Observatory will not only gain recognition from the students receiving the
shirt, but will get more exposure to the general public. Students will serve as walking billboards for
Cost: $6,220 (2000 shirts x $3.11 per shirt)
Source: Aztec Promotional Group in Austin
Recommendation: Sponsor a YouTube video contest for students who will create a short video clip of 15-30
seconds creatively explaining what astronomy means to them. The winner will receive an all
expenses paid trip with three of their friends to visit the McDonald Observatory as well as
camp out at Big Bend National Park. Cabela’s will be one of the sponsors and they will
provide all the camping equipment and other necessary items. The contest will start in
January and run to the middle of February.
• Advertise through social media channels as well as on the McDonald Observatory website
and the UT Astronomy website
• Place flyers around campus
Marketing Objective(s): 1, 2, 3
Intended Effects: This YouTube video contest is intended to get students who are interested in astronomy or
outdoor activities excited about astronomy, and more specifically, the McDonald Observatory.
Also, by posting these videos on the McDonald Observatory’s website and Facebook page, other
individuals can take joy in watching the videos. Viral marketing is the key intention.
Cost: $5000 (prize allocation)
The following recommendations are intended to increase brand awareness to the K-12 students and teachers. The
McDonald Observatory actively engages within this market, and SuperNova believes the McDonald Observatory
should continue to cultivate a stronger relationship.
Recommendation: Create a statewide competition amongst schools, with three separate prizes for Elementary,
Middle School, and High School, beginning September 1, 2010, and ending November 30,
2010. The competition will offer a creative way for teachers to incorporate astronomy into
their science curriculum thus encouraging participation.
• Creatively design your own “sweet” solar system to win
• Build your own telescope
• Winner based on creativity of the design and effectiveness of the telescope
• $1,000 contribution to the winning school’s science department and $100 to the
winning class for a party of their choice (pizza, ice cream, etc.)
Marketing Objective(s): 1, 2
Intended Effects: These contests will do an outstanding job of getting the MO brand into schools statewide, while
allowing students to express their creativity through astronomy. After participating in these
contests, McDonald Observatory will have top of mind awareness among K-12 students and
Cost: $3,300 (prizes)
Recommendation: Distribute book covers to statewide schools K-12. According to discussions with teachers,
entry into schools will not be difficult because many school districts will utilize any free
materials donated to them. It is typically mandatory for students to cover their textbooks,
so the free book covers will benefit both the students and schools.
• Will consist of the new McDonald Observatory logo and games such as crosswords,
seek-and-finds, and constellation connect-the-dots
Marketing Objective(s): 1, 2
Intended Effects: Due to high frequency brand exposure, these efforts will foster high McDonald Observatory brand
recall amongst students. We want students to see the MO brand on a daily basis for brand
recognition and the book covers in students’ hands will surely achieve this desired effect. By the
end of the year, 75% of students at the distributed schools should be able to easily recognize the
MO logo and know who McDonald Observatory is.
Cost: $8,000 ($100,000 copies x $.08 per book cover)
Recommendation: Continue to provide free videoconferences on Astronomy day, but increase the “first come
first serve” school policy to be more inclusive. Also, promotion for these videoconferences
will be an opportune moment to introduce new logo.
• Include more schools that register in the Connect2Texas membership
• Even though efforts will mainly be geared towards Texas schools, schools in nearby
states should be considered too
Marketing Objective(s): 1, 3
Intended Effects: By providing more opportunities for schools to have free videoconferencing, the McDonald
Observatory will receive more recognition amongst the market and an opportunity to introduce
the new brand with the new logo. Also, efforts will kindle new relationships with schools that have
not previously utilized MO’s educational resources.
Cost: Free (The observatory already has the resources to host the video conferences)
Social media is increasingly becoming one of the most popular tools companies use to connect with their target
audience. Rightfully so, this is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to increase brand awareness amongst consumers,
because it requires no cost, but more so time and effort on the part of the advertiser. While McDonald Observatory
has already taken advantage of the Facebook Fan Page, there are other interactive methods available for
McDonald Observatory to utilize.
Recommendation: LinkedIn is already used by many professionals, and is an easy way to access researchers
and individuals in higher education. Many companies use this website to post job positions
and to also bring awareness to the company as a professional organization. Currently when
an individual searches for McDonald Observatory, zero results show.
Strategy: • Simply create a Company Profile Page on LinkedIn so that all individuals that are currently
a part of or that are looking to become a part of the observatory can easily find the website.
Target Reached: • Higher education and research
Intended Effects: Easily creates a visible network amongst astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts.
Recommendation: Tripadvisor is one of the best tools a traveler could use when searching for tourist spots and
eats. Many travelers rely on this resource to search for the best attractions in the area.
McDonald Observatory is already listed on Tripadvisor with several positive reviews,
however the amount of positive reviews can increase exponentially by advertising this
website at the physical observatory and on other MO websites.
Strategy: • Publish the trademark Tripadvisor image on pamphlets, flyers,
posters Facebook, LinkedIn, and the website
• Make sure the symbol is prominently displayed in the actual
Target Reached: • UT Community
• Texas School System
Intended Effects: Increase positive reviews and subsequently increase overall positive brand image, which will
eventually lure in more customers.
Recommendation: Placing advertisements in the digital world is another way to keep the McDonald Observatory
fresh in the minds of its target audience. People who generally have an interest in astronomy
are more likely to browse astronomy websites and will thus notice any advertised McDonald
Strategy: Placing advertisements on the following websites:
The first website listed when the keyword “Astronomy” is placed in Google. This in-depth
website is the supplement to Astronomy Magazine, a reputable resource for astronomers.
The website contains news, blogs, and videos about all the latest happenings.
Another popular astronomy website. This is a supplement to their magazine, Sky and
Telescope, and has many followers, though not nearly as many as astronomy.com. Users
can find pictures, Skyblogs, and How-Tos on this comprehensive website.
Target Reached: • Higher education and research
Intended Effects: Create and maintain brand awareness amongst the astronomy community. This includes
awareness among astronomers, higher education researchers, and astronomy enthusiasts that
are seeking more information about Astronomy.
103,000 visitors monthly (quantcast.com), estimated CPM - $1.50, appr. $155/month
$465 ($155 per month x 3 months)
6,600 viewers montly (quantcast.com), estimated CPM - $1.50
$120 (Approximate yearly cost)
Recommendation: Search Engine Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, and Pay Per Click are all ways to
increase traffic to the McDonald Observatory website. When putting in “Observatory” in
Bing, McDonald Observatory comes in 19th place. On Yahoo! it comes in 4th place. Google
it comes in 6th place. McDonald Observatory can increase the number of hits to their
website by being a sponsored link in these search engines. In order to garner the most
views, though, McDonald Observatory should outsource this aspect to a specialized
company in order to get the most out of their website.
Strategy: • Buy keywords on large search engine companies such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing
Target Reached: • UT Community
• Texas School System
• Higher Education and Research
Intended Effects: Increase traffic to the website, and therefore increase knowledge about observatory amongst
Cost: Search Engine Optimization company packages - $2000-3000 per month (seomoz.org)
Surveys will be the key method of measurement for the marketing objectives that involve awareness and brand identity. Surveys are general enough
to measure any strategy and can be sent to target consumers via list serves, Facebook, Twitter, etc. It is important to create email sign up sheets for
promotional events in order to develop specific listservs. Post surveys should always correctly be distributed to the relevant target and they should
measure the correct communication objective. For example, brand attitude surveys should be given to UT students after the movie week and
awareness surveys should be given to participating book cover schools. Also, since the branding campaign involves several promotional efforts
that are hard to measure, such as the t-shirts, general surveys will suffice as an alternative.
Measuring physical traffic to the observatory or its events can often paint a picture for effectiveness. For example, McDonald Observatory
should keep measure of convention attendees who frequent their set-ups or booths, YouTube participants who submitted online videos, K-12
schools and classrooms who entered the statewide competition, movie watchers, and the number of video conferencing participants. Also, it
is key to keep track of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and LinkedIn friends. Note any influx of “adds” during and after promotional events.
As mentioned earlier, TweetDeck is a vital resource to guide social media measurement. One other online measurement will be the increased
number of monthly positive reviews posted on Tripadvisor.
Google analytics is free source to measure online website traffic. McDonald Observatory should use its current traffic count as a benchmark for
website will be interest in the “classroom” section. If efforts towards the Texas School System are to be successful, educational material
downloads should increase. As far as paid advertising, the vehicle provider will provide traffic statistics, and for paid searches, the search engine
optimization company will provide statistics and data. A convenient, alternative source to website analytics (for any website) is quantcast.com.
Although McDonald Observatory already has many great programs set in place, adjustments still need to be made to
successfully create a strong brand image. Each target market responds differently to various services offered by the McDonald
Observatory; the 2010 campaign was created with this in mind. For example, University of Texas students are drawn to
freebies. By implementing a plan to give out free t-shirts and free movie showings, the McDonald Observatory will create
a positive, long lasting impression on this target.
In addition to the strategies created for this campaign, Supernova Group suggests the following ideas to be considered in
any future advertising efforts:
Create an iPhone application
The iPhone application could be accessible across all markets. Conceptually, when a user points the camera
of the phone to the sky, the phone will use GPS to inform the user about the constellation above.
Cost: Approximately $75,000
Advertise in popular astronomy magazines
McDonald Observatory can gain more credibility if readers see advertisements for the observatory in popular
trade magazines such as Astronomy Magazine.
Cost: $24,156 for 3 months
Sponsor an educational conference
In addition to sponsoring astronomy conferences, McDonald Observatory can reach out to their general k-12
school population (mainly teachers) by setting up interactive booths or show rooms at educational conferences.
Supernova Group would like to help the McDonald Observatory to continue to establish itself as one of top the
observatories in the country, and by creating a new logo design and implementing the strategies from Supernova, the
McDonald Observatory will successfully achieve all marketing objectives.