Why Branding Matters in Higher Ed – Part 2


Welcome back to my discussion about why branding matters in higher education!

In my first post, I made reference to the bubble bursting in For-profit Higher Education.  Chris Ross of the Parthenon Group offers an excellent perspective in his article, Where Have All the Students Gone?.

The main reasons that Mr. Ross cites are more competition from traditional colleges and universities and saturation of messages from Colleges and Universities in the marketplace.  The low hanging fruit has been found and therefore there is a smaller addressable audience.  And, finally, the overall economy is having an affect on higher ed.  The thinking with many prospective students, whether traditional or non-traditional, is that if the economy is not going to get better, is college even worth it?  Is it worth spending in upwards of $50,ooo for a degree when you cannot find a job after you earn it?  The point I am making is that if you only rely on direct response, lead generation advertising and you’re not sure if anybody knows who you are outside a Google search for “online education” and the bubble of growth has burst, as Mr. Ross points out, how can you grow?

My answer…by creating and establishing your brand for the long-term.  Strong brands lead to greater cash flow because you have deeper market penetration. Strong brands improve market penetration because brands reduce the perceived risk for the customer. When you have an established, recognizable brand, studies show you have faster product trial, higher referral rates and greater retention. Brands that are well-executed, consistent, memorable and live up to consumer expectations, command a premium price, a premium stock price and can boost earnings. And who doesn’t want to be worth more?  Brand value is very important to companies…companies that include higher education institutions.

In my next post, I’d like to discuss the value of brands.  Fast Fact:  According to the McKinsey Quarterly Report about ½ of the market value of any Fortune 250 company is tied to intangible assets.  Assets like their brands.

Until next time…

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3 Responses to “Why Branding Matters in Higher Ed – Part 2”

  1. Nathan Pieratt Says:

    Enjoyed the post Steve. Branding “higher education institutions” is a unique challenge. The brand experience is impacted by so many factors which makes it difficult to maintain consistency in execution of the experience (From first contact to graduation)

    I’ve helped for-profit schools and state colleges develop marketing strategy and it is interesting how similar they were in approach. Both were conservative with their ideas. They focused on profiling the student experience (alumni, current students, faculty, facilities). Stories told through video and online newsletters. Traditional marketing channels were leveraged (Direct mail). Very conservative on digital. Very little 360 discussion. And lets be honest, a fully integrated marketing campaign is expensive. The benefits and ROI of social/digital are still being defined and measured…and academics like hard data, so do MBA’s. It seems like the cards are stacked against creative and integrated strategy…what do you think?

    All that to say I am looking forward to hearing more from you about branding and higher education. You have some unique challenges. You’re not selling chips or widgets. Expectations are high. Costs are increasing. Public opinion is growing hostile and indifferent. How do you spend time on the intangible assets with the hard assets are making people mad? A great challenge!

    Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Dave Says:

    Steve, you are right. My institution is a 10 campus community college, but has a residential military cadet program on the main campus. So branding for us has been difficult since 95% of my students are commuter students. But with the name Georgia Military College, many potential students are apprehensive to check us out.

    • stevejaws Says:


      I am familiar with GMA. I used to live in Augusta when i was in 8-10th grades…I would recommend a name change or split in targets…GMA is too limiting…or at least it sounds that way…we used to be called Indiana Business College and changed our name 3 years ago because it was considered a secretarial school and held us back….tough decision but worth the effort to grow…I was brought in to implement the change…good luck! Steve

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