French Embassy Higher Ed Hackathon 2018

Tools: Pen, Paper, Canva

The Challenge

Under the banner of “France is Back!”, the French Embassy held another hackathon — this time they wanted to focus on a marketing campaign to encourage students to study abroad in France. We had 6 hours to complete this task in teams of three. Our budget was approximately US$2,000.


My Role

I served primarily as project manager and presenter on our team, Les STEMinists. I immediately set up a shared Google Drive and invited us to a private Slack channel so we could quickly and easily share documents and information.



We were given access to some initial research from the French Embassy. This included a confusing categorization of what people, from which parts of the United States apply to what countries. We initially tried to make sense of this data before we realized that it wasn’t exactly useful.

Realizing that the data we were given wasn’t extremely helpful, we explored the reasons for why students study abroad. Diving into our social networks, we sent out a quick survey which pointed us to a former colleague that was currently studying abroad and was available for a quick interview. He confirmed that studying abroad once encouraged you to go back, and that part of why he chose to go back was that European education is significantly cheaper.

While researching the students, we simultaneously researched the international education field. We discovered that STEM was the fastest growing field for both job growth and applications for study for the US. Just a few weeks before, the French government announced a massive initiative to bring on foreign climate change scientists — many from US institutions — to start building up a tech hub in Western Europe based out of France. While our research showed that Germany and the UK were more popular, France had a significant advantage in that a French public university costs just US$200/year. With the significant investment in STEM research, affordable quality education, as well as the typical student study abroad persona aligning closely to US university enrollments (young female), we had the beginnings of our marketing campaign idea.


Digital Marketing Campaign

Further research in marketing to millennials and younger showed that they are very open to content-driven marketing

According to Nielsen, many millennials polled understand the necessity of ads and aren’t bothered by them. That number leaps from 46% to 75% when the content they’re viewing is free. … They’re receptive to brand storytelling over straightforward ads. Millennials exhibit early adoption tendencies and develop a loyalty to brands they can trust. Millennials don’t care if content is branded; they care about whether it speaks to them.

Using the “France is Back!” theme, we created a STEM-centric poster that can be hung study abroad or school advisers’ offices on campuses around the United States. The poster has imagery of the hallmarks of France (red, white, blue, croissants, Eiffel tower, etc) but combines the future of France in the iconography as well. And this was our jumping off point to create Snapchat themes and a square size poster for sharing on social media, with suggested hash tags to lead students’ friends and family back to Campus France.



Our suggestion was simple and affordable, and we took the time to build out visuals for our presentation which I think gave us a definite edge. We didn’t just present flat sets of data or budget spreadsheets to the client, we were also able to show them what we meant. We were able to get a lot done in just 6 hours, and it landed us first place. Vive la France!

Emily Lawrence