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How to Turn Anxiety Into Fun, Excitement and Social Enthusiasm

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Young man holding up a 'YES!" sign in response to acceptance into collegeThere’s no mistaking this picture. Ryan is one happy kid.

Ryan—the son of Niki Kaylor, our Director of Client Services—just received his first college acceptance letter. The envelope alone leaves no doubt about the University of South Carolina (USC) notification to Ryan, his family and friends.

Niki—who happened to be at home with Ryan when the mail arrived—is pleased to talk about the shared moment of excitement. “As it happened, the large envelope was the last piece of mail in the stack.

At first, I only saw the address side, and when I held it up, Ryan was the first to see the YES!-side of the envelope. I’m thrilled that I was at home to see his reaction, and to be part of that amazing family moment.

“In that moment, anticipation instantly turned to excitement. It was Ryan’s achievement, but everyone was a bit misty-eyed with parental pride. Ryan even asked me to take the photo before opening the envelope. The good news envelope had an impact on the entire family.”

But there’s even more to this story. Beyond our extended-family props to Ryan (and kudos to his justifiably proud parents), we spot a number of clever, creative and fun lessons in marketing and social media.

Capture and share the fun of the moment…

Applying for college undergraduate admission is a big deal…for high school seniors and their parents. You probably remember the extended anxiety of waiting for a reply, and the constant anticipation of (hopefully) a letter of acceptance.

YES! instructions

The USC YES! program tapped into the high voltage energy surrounding the college entry milestone for students, plus they successfully channeled the good-news-and-family-fun moment to the Internet and social media. Notice some of these creative hallmarks:

  • The oversize envelope definitely boldly stands out in the mailbox. The non-standard envelope immediately recognizes the importance of the message it carries and the significance of being accepted.
  • The giant YES! message—complete with USC mascot image (a gamecock)—makes a dramatic first impression. We’re sure there are a lot more administrative/academic details, but what the student wants to know most is simply, YES!
  • Notice the four quick instructions at the top of the envelope. They are: Open, Celebrate (take a picture), Post (to social media), and (using the hashtag), share the fun and excitement with hundreds of others in the USC class of 2020.
  • Check out the #UofSCYES page here. Computer-savvy, college-bound students need no further instructions. Sharing their photo on Instagram or Facebook (with the #UofSCYES hashtag) features their photo on the USC website.

And what else is happening here?

Validating the “purchase decision” is a big bonus. Students often apply to more than one college or university, and USC knows there’s still a choice about where to attend school in the Fall. This program immediately connects with the student’s positive excitement, and captures a “buy-in” and initial “belonging” to USC.


Seeing—and joining with—many others is social proof. The final choice among multiple schools is further influenced (or reinforced) by seeing that many others are making the same choice.

Digital is today’s word-of-mouth. In addition to the student social splash, you can bet that the energy was extended by proud parents, relatives and friends verbally and online. Social media and the USC website are a display channel for social proof.

Plus, you’re reading this published article about Ryan’s acceptance and USC’s new-student marketing methods. How many of these creative online and social media techniques can you put to work for your next healthcare marketing effort?

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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