Higher education branding isn’t something most universities take seriously. But as competition to acquire new students continues to heat up, the right brand will help your school stand out from its competitors.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what branding really is (hint: it might not be what you think) and why it’s important. Then we’ll give you four actionable tips you can use to build a winning higher education branding strategy.
Let’s get started!
First Things First: What Branding Really Is
Let’s start by defining what branding really is. Many university professionals assume that “branding” refers to a school’s logo or color scheme. While both of these things play a role, they aren’t branding. Not really.
Higher education branding is the story your prospective students tell themselves about your institution. For example, many of the world’s brightest students attend Harvard and the school is known for producing successful professionals. Because of this, Harvard is considered to be an elite university. And that’s their brand. Elite.
They’ve earned this reputation by promising a top-level education to students and delivering on that promise. Now the entire world thinks of them as a leading university.
Why Higher Education Branding Matters
There are many reasons why your institution needs to get its branding right. First off, attending college is expensive. And prices seem to rise on an annual basis. The right branding can convince potential students that an investment in your school is a wise choice. That a degree from your school will help them get where they want to go in life.
Many students also attend college for the experience. They want to better their futures, sure. But they also want to have a great time while they earn their degrees. The right branding will attract students who fit in with your institution’s culture. It will ensure them that they’ll have amazing experiences and make memories they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives.
If you can convince students that an investment in your school will get them where they want to go in life and that the college experience at your institution will be enjoyable, you’ll increase attendance. Proper higher education branding will help you accomplish this goal.
4 Higher Education Branding Tips
Now that you understand what branding is and why it’s important, let’s discuss four tips you can use to get your school’s brand right.
1. Understand Your Strengths
When it comes to higher education branding, you must understand what your university excels at. Every school has strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps your institution has an amazing music department. Or a fantastic business program. Maybe it specializes in healthcare or computer sciences.
University strengths can also be unrelated to education. Does your school have winning sports teams? How about cutting edge facilities or highly-rated extra-curricular activities?
Discover all the areas in which your university really excels. The areas that will grab students’ attention and make them want to attend your school. These strengths will provide the foundation for your higher education branding strategy.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
Next, you need to identify your target audience. Who is the ideal student for your university? Fortunately, this step is a lot easier once you understand your institution’s strengths. If, for example, your school has an amazing engineering program, your target audience will likely be students looking to earn an engineering degree.
Of course, most schools offer many different classes and cater to a wide range of students. But finding the student niche that your school can best serve is important. You can then use this information as the backbone for your branding efforts.
3. Know Your Competitors
Your university has competitors. To promote your school properly, you need to know who they are. Then you can use your higher education branding strategy to differentiate your institution from other similar ones.
Knowing your school’s strengths will help you complete this step as well. If your school offers an elite program in a certain field, that automatically differentiates you from your competitors. Other differentiators can include your school’s storied history, well-known faculty members and/or alumni, or your school’s focus on the student experience.
4. Stay Consistent
Finally, your higher education branding strategy needs to be consistent. The visuals you use in all your school’s marketing materials should reflect what your university stands for. The tone of voice you use in your brochures, email campaigns, and social posts should align with your university’s branding.
In a nutshell, your target audience should always know what to expect from your school. And the marketing materials they receive from you should all work together.
Nail Your Higher Education Branding
The higher education space is competitive. The right branding strategy can separate your school from the crowd of others attempting to enroll the same students. Just remember, branding isn’t a fancy logo or color scheme. It’s the story your prospective students tell themselves about your institution.
To create an impactful branding strategy, simply follow the four tips we outlined in this article. First, understand the strengths of your university. Then identify your target audience, know who your competitors are, and remain consistent in all your marketing efforts. Good luck!