This fall, many colleges and universities will have a very difficult time hitting their enrollment goals and/or their net tuition goals.
It is likely that this will be followed by a call for careful analyses of what is working and what is not in your overall marketing and recruiting strategies.
I am sure that one of the questions that will be asked is: Is our brand strategy working?
Let me give you a quick answer: Probably not.
In most cases, brand strategies are little more than a coordinated communication effort and what is being communicated is a litany of tired, well-used messages:
- The college that cares
- Students matter
- Start here and go far
- Preparation for tomorrow
- Leaders for tomorrow
- (insert word here) for tomorrow
While some schools may cite limited budgets and poor integration as the root cause of their brand failure, I believe that the majority of these strategies were destined to fail long before the media plan was written.
In too many instances, conversations about brand tend to revolve around the words “unique” or “distinctive.” And in too many instances, this is subliminally translated to “what’s important to us.”
Sadly, this myopic, institutional-centric approach to brand development leaves out two key elements: 1) your audience and 2) your competitors.
Rather than unique or distinctive, our goal is brands that are compelling. In other words, brands that:
- Are important to your internal and external audiences
- Are believable
- Differentiate you from your competitors
- Are emotionally engaging to both internal and external audiences
These four qualities combine to form the idea of compelling. A compelling brand advances your institution strategically. A compelling brand helps you get the class, raise the money, and meet other key goals. Or as Randy Burge, one of our senior client executives says, “Does your brand give you the foundation and the mojo to take you where you want/need to go? “
In the final analysis, if your brand doesn’t do these things, it is not a brand: It’s just background noise.