Guest post: Andrea Michnik on developing effective higher education taglines

Today’s guest post comes from Andrea Genevieve Michnik, director of marketing and enrollment with the Semester in Washington Journalism Program at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @AndreaGenevieve or @SIWjournalism, and look for her at the upcoming EduWeb and EduComm conferences this summer.

Developing effective higher education taglines

Some would argue that taglines are among the most important parts of a higher education brand identity. Combined with logo identity, tone and theme, taglines are important. But, are they successful at representing the college experience?

Consider higher education taglines. Do you remember the tagline of your alma mater? Does it accurately portray the environment and experience of going to school at that institution? If you can’t remember, that should tell you something about its effectiveness.

Accuracy is relative; dependent upon the opinion of those involved at all institutional levels. Higher education marketers, potential students, current students, parents, alumni, administration, governing boards and additional important stakeholders all become potential focus groups. Representatives from each constituency should have a say in the keywords of a tagline. Not sure if a current tagline is yielding desired results? Consider conducting a survey or poll. It’s a simple and easy method to gauge effectiveness.

Take a look at the issues in building an identity campaign for the Semester in Washington Journalism Program at George Washington University. Since it is branding a part of an institution, this project is a challenge. It’s important to maintain certain elements of GWU’s identity, but at the same time differentiate the program from the competition.

Check out this great collection of 3,500 higher education taglines put together by the Indiana creative marketing firm Richard Harrison Bailey/The Agency, where you can search by keyword or institution. Take a minute and perhaps look at the taglines of your competition.

Should an institution look to update its identity or tagline? How would you decide if a tagline resonates with target markets? What factors should be considered? Share your thoughts, examples and ideas here. Look for an update in a week on the progress of creating a tagline for the Semester in Washington Journalism Program.

Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

5 thoughts on “Guest post: Andrea Michnik on developing effective higher education taglines”

  1. I look at those 3500 taglines RHB put together and I wonder how many use “excellence” and other cliches. Too many institutions think they need a tagline and aren’t willing to think differently enough to adopt one that’s truly memorable. I can’t remember the taglines of many of our clients, though we’ve worked with some excellent institutions that do memorable things. It’s just that their taglines aren’t nearly as memorable as the institution is.

  2. I’ve always believed that the “brand” of a university is the sum of its stories from all constituents.

    I have yet to see a higher-ed tagline that does this well. Selling an institution must go far beyond creation of a tag.

  3. Taglines are just not really effective for what they’re trying to do. I think there are so many richer ways to brand an institution without binding yourself to a throwaway tagline.

  4. Good discussion, folks. The best taglines seem to be those that are directly connected with an organization’s brand promise. I think of Walmart’s “save money, live better” tagline, which is really just an outgrowth of its core business model. Of course, Walmart’s tagline used to be “Always low prices. Always,” but as the company has tried to be more upscale it had to adjust course and messaging.

    I don’t think taglines work that well with universities, because there is very little differentiation. I agree with Ron and Denny that there are better ways to build a brand identity than a throwaway tagline. I also cringe along with Michael at all the “excellenceness” among our university taglines. I wonder what administrators would do if we replaced “excellence” with “awesomeness”. What would their reaction be?

  5. I agree with Andrew. I’ve developed taglines over the years internally and with agencies. The most effective taglines, and the most honest, come from a branding review process that includes surveying your publics on what you’re all about as an institution. From those conversations and surveys come common words and phrases which may lead to a tagline. Yes, “excellence” is way over used. There are more examples. Taglines should position you and differentiate you.

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