Five Steps to Building Your University Brand

Liz Kistner - Monday, October 27, 2014

University SignWhat is branding?  According to Al Ries, author of "The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding", a branding program should be designed to differentiate your product from all the other cattle on the range, "even if all the other cattle on the range look pretty much alike."  In this crowded, competitive world if you're not a brand you're just a commodity.  How are you currently seeking to distinguish your school from the competition and creating a lasting impression in your prospect's mind?  

Here are five steps to successfully branding your school:

  1. Create one unified message based on what makes your school different, who you are, and what you do.   What distinct benefit(s) does your school deliver?
    o Ball State "Education Redefined"
    o University of Maryland "Keep Me Maryland"
    o UCLA "Here. Now. UCLA"
    o University of Phoenix "I am a Phoenix"

  2. Focus on public relations not advertising that creates a sense of belonging through engagement.  Staff, faculty, administrators and students all play a key role in delivering an institution's brand promise.  Engagement through your web site (promote news on campus; encourage online engagement); social media (be mindful of what you are trying to say, looking at posts "likes", connect with stories; share information in both directions; maximize your involvement with "whole" people that require a name and/or some consistency of membership); video (rotating key feature stories that reflects different programs, community member or reflects the student body as a whole), push video content to mobile devices.; engage with local cable TV/media; create interactive view books on USB drives that can be handed out at an open house or mailed to prospective students that feature video clips or information about your school relevant to the programs you are promoting.

  3. Build a brand promise based on academic offerings, student experience, or an institution's prestige.  Develop brand strategies that reflect the emotional and psychological dynamics (alumni giving, staff culture, student experience, recruitment efforts, instructor reputation, faculty engagement, and community relations) of an education institution as a whole.  These dynamics will influence and shape the perceptions of your brand in the marketplace.

  4. Create a brand experience through updated curriculum. Curricula must be relevant in today's global marketplace through new academic subjects.  Institutions must also be aware of the growing  population of nontraditional students, aging student population, accommodate more online and distance learning as well as continue to offer broader spectrum of student needs.  Doing so will strengthen your brand's position in the marketing place.

  5. Build an emotional brand experience that creates loyalty.  If you build it they will come.  If the emotional connection between your brand and your prospect is strong, the brand experience will bring active/continued referrals as well as increased profitability to your school.  Loyalty means higher retention rates as well as reduced marketing costs.  Create loyalty by understanding your market segments as well as offering convenient locations/hours, having an employer influence (corporate alliance), pricing, timing, or flexibility with schedules for example.

Powerful brands increase market share and loyalty.  The power of a brand lies in the minds of your students' perceptions:  what they have learned, heard, felt or seen as a result of their experience overtime.  Ultimately your students determine what your brand means.



Brand Sense by Martin Lindstrom

Why Johnny Can't Brand by Bill Schley

A New Brand World by Scott Bedbury

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries and Laura Ries

Building the service brand by creating and managing an emotional brand experience. Full Text Available By: Morrison, Sharon; Crane, Frederick G.. Journal of Brand Management, May2007, Vol. 14 Issue 5, p410-421, 12p; DOI: 10.1057/palgrave.bm.2550080; (AN 25234530)

A brand new U: Effective sub-branding at a university. Full Text Available By: Albert, Lisa. Public Relations Tactics, Nov 2008, Vol. 15 Issue 11, p20-30, 3/4p; (AN 35132475)

Universities finally espousing branding. Full Text Available By: Miley, Marissa. Advertising Age, 6/1/2009, Vol. 80 Issue 20, p6-6, 2/3p; (AN 40743761)

Building a Brand in Higher Education. Full Text Available By: Lockwood, Robert C.; Hadd, Jerry. Gallup Management Journal Online, 7/12/2007, p1-6, 6p; (AN 25967811)

Transformational Branding. Full Text Available By: Schultz, Don. Marketing Management, Sep/Oct 2009, Vol. 18 Issue 5, p 6-7, 2p, 1 color; (AN 45016489)