4 Step to Education Branding

October 29, 2007

1. Differentiation – It is my experience that colleges (or rather the college administration) fails to understand that the basic product they offer is a commodity. Any curriculum for an English degree is going to be pretty similar from on college to the next. In addition most of the faculty are going to be roughly equally qualified to teach the courses. It is here that the universities fall into the trap I mentioned in my last post – Come to our college because we have great 1. Faculty 2. Students 3. Majors. It is easy to fall into the trap because most of the time it’s true. Just because something is good doesn’t make it rare. If an attribute is common it is of course by definition not a differentiators. Colleges need to find what makes them different from the schools that their target audience are looking at.

2. Positioning – Schools need to make a strategic choice where they are going to place themselves in the competitive landscape. It must me a concouious choice to decide what they are best at. What are they better at than anyone else. We have the best fine arts program in the state. We are the most affordable private school in the region. Our students have more internship opportunities than….. This is a particularly difficult choice for college because they are such political places.

3. Relevant – The brand position that the school chooses much also be relevant to their audience. It seems obvious, but many college are often “selling” services that nobody is “buying”. Management guru Peter Drucker once said of business schools, “Once a subject becomes entirely obsolete, we make it a required course.” Taking further does your target audience care about what you are telling them you can do for them. For example – a college with a primarily rural student body, most of whom plan on remaining within 100 mile of their birthplace, but touts it’s “international” focus.

4. Clarity – The school must show clarity in two ways. First, the college administration must show the rest of campus what the brand will be and why the brand is important. If, for example, the schools brand is based on it friendly, family atmosphere and a potential student comes on campus and a member of the faculty or cafeteria staff is rude to her the brand promise is broken. Second, and this seems to be very difficult for college presidents, is clarity about what your is and is not. Schools always want to move up the food chain, or for this industry the reputation chain. There is nothing wrong with improving your product and by byproduct your reputation, but many times colleges will focus on recruiting students that are outside of their core buyers. Instead of trying to get more of the kind of student that are the right fit the college president is trying the remake his college into a mini-Ivy. An analogy from the auto industry would be if Hyundai’s marketing emphasized a new sports car to compete with Porsche. Hyundai’s brand is based on economy price point and improving reliability, not high performance. If I want a high performance sports car I am not going to drive around a Hyundai. If they Hyundai fails to understand who it is they lose their realistic potential buyers (economy consumers) and will fail to win the new target audience (sports car buyers that don’t believe that Hyundai makes the kind of car they want).

Once again I feel it worth pointing out that I take the foundation of my ideas from David Aaker and Micheal Porter among others.



Why don’t colleges brand?

October 22, 2007

The first thing I need to point out before I get too far into this post is that I borrow my ideas here liberally from David Aaker and Michael Porter. Of course I always do, so this is nothing new.

There are four main reasons.

1. They don’t understand what “branding” is: Like many non-academic organizations most colleges and universities think branding is something garish. Branding is about defining what an organization stands for, not a brightly colored logo.
2. They are “above” branding – Some even give the impression that they think branding is a little dirty and that an institution of higher learning should be above that sort of thing.
3. The college is trying to define their brand (or more likely just trying to market themselves), but they don’t know how: There is no shame in this. An effort is being made, but they are not trained marketers. Many times college administrators know they need to improve their marketing efforts, but they simply don’t know how. They are people trained in running colleges and running admissions departments. There isn’t any reason that they would automatically be great at branding.
4. They choose the wrong message: This is the next stage for college branding misfires. They know they need better branding. They make a plan. And it fails because they choose the wrong message. A very high percentage of marketing messages from colleges and universities center around one of the following themes: We have great professors; We have great students; We have a great campus. As I always tell clients those thing may all be true, but they are branding differentiators. The don’t end up leaving an impression in the mind of potential students because all college say the same thing.

Now, how colleges and universities should start the branding process will be the subject of my next post.


The best of…

September 28, 2007

You can’t just copy successes in other industries

Excellent reminder that a brand extension only works if there is perceived value. “Lite” extensions work in the food industry – no so much for software.

Cool Table of Elements

Doesn’t provide much depth, but it is fun!

Beginning of the end for Apple?

I picked this on from any number of posts about Apples’ recent brand struggles. It is amazing how fast control of a brand image can get away from a company – even from one of the brand giants of the American economy.

The best of…..

September 20, 2007

If we can’t beat ’em join ’em and other bad brand ideas
I don’t agree with everything the Ries’s come up with, but this is dead-on. The best “me too” can do is give you a place in the middle of the pack.

Jones Soda “gets it”
To me Jones Soda is branding in the truest sense of the word. They are actively different than their competitors. Complete opposite of the “me too” group in the first link.

Wow these posts are long!
I just found this site and wanted to share it. Idris Mootee is giving what amounts to a branding class every few days. Good stuff.

August 31, 2007

Companies have a hard enough time staying disciplined to a brand position in traditional media. AT&T is making a big push since their controversial name change from Cingular to AT&T. The recent TV spots have focused on “You’re world delivered” and “You’re wireless, We’re Wireless”. Neither is a strong position statement. I think we are supposed to glean that AT&T Wireless delivers information to us in a way that most of us use. Ummm, thanks. I’m pretty sure the rest of the wireless companies do to. The only benefit AT&T get from this message is convince potential consumers that if they use AT&T they will not be force to use an actual telegraph. Now let’s look at AT&T’s brand message on http://www.wireless.att.com (their primary consumer site).att4

The over all design is pleasing and clean. The problem is there is nothing on this page that shows what AT&T Wireless should stand for in the mind of a potential consumer. There is no value proposition. No declaration of being the best choice for consumers that are looking for…the best price…the best customers service…the biggest network…or the best anything. The fortunate thing for AT&T – almost none of there competitors do either.


Hello world!

August 24, 2007

Welcome to Brand Next. Not that the word needs another blog, but I hope create something interesting here. Brand next will focus on branding and positioning (obviously), but more specifically on branding efforts in the online market place. Are companies “branding” effectively online? Are their offline efforts being supported by their online efforts (and vise versa)? In addition I will focus on general branding efforts being made in the corporate world and in the education field. Please check back often and leave suggestions.