The Battle Over Branding

Carnegie Higher Ed May 13, 2016 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

I’ve heard it before: school branding is not a function of admission but rather the responsibility of marketing. Right? Branding isn’t about tangible enrollment numbers but the overall benefit of the school…

I disagree. Branding and name recognition can play a direct role in enrollment and should be part of admission’s efforts.

Not convinced? Take Franklin Pierce University. In a recent New York Times article, the school was candid about their struggles in recent years. However, this year they saw a jump in applications by 79%. Yes, you read that right: Seventy. Nine. Percent!

But why? What stars aligned perfectly to help this fantastic rural private college gem.

Here’s what: branding and name recognition.

This year, Franklin Pierce decided to revive their political polling operation. With such a, let’s say, interesting election year happening, their polling allowed for their brand to be part of this exciting time. With their name connected to The Boston Herald, The Huffington Post, and political site after political site, their name and brand confidence soared. And so did their applications.

So, let’s take this case and roll it into how admission folks can impact their school’s brand and reputation confidence. No one is suggesting that you start a political polling branch on campus. But you can get your brand proudly displayed alongside influential and respected resources by utilizing strategic marketing efforts. You can be present wherever your prospects and stakeholders are and ensure your brand is reaching the eyes you want to connect with while they are engaging with media they respect.

An example: a private school in Texas wanted to increase visibility as they made the shift to a new athletic conference. In order to gain brand cred, they purchased space across the Google display network for any time the conference name was mentioned. The football-focused reader would see their name, brand, and images while they caught up on player info and score reports on any page that included the reference of the new conference name. That’s keyword targeting.

Or, there’s Retargeting. The audience that has already been to your site is tapped on the shoulder wherever they go. YouTube, Candy Crush,…whatever they’re into, with Retargeting you’re there giving them the friendly digital wave hello.

Or you can go offline. Imagine a prospect flipping through a trusted resource where other peer institutions are profiled and your school’s message, brand, and information are readily available and part of the experience (*cough* like PC&U! *cough*). If your competitors are there, shouldn’t you be there too?

In most of these examples, the student’s next action will not be a direct-to-application-completion effort. We recognize that. But the power of top of mind, gentle nudges and thoughtful engagement is huge. And, as Franklin Pierce saw, it could be the impetus of the next great admission year.

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