Study: #highered branding comes of age

Branding, it seems, is no longer a dirty word in academia. College and university leaders tend to be supportive of brand-building initiatives for their institutions, and they’re also willing to invest in brand development work, including research.

In short, branding is coming of age in the higher ed world.

mStoner-brandingThose are a few of the takeaways from a new report, The State of Higher Ed Branding: A Survey of Marketing Leaders. This survey, sponsored by mStoner, was released this morning, and the white paper is available for download.

Tom Hayes and Deb Maue, who authored the white paper, explain that the survey is intended “to take a more focused look at the degree to which colleges and universities have developed and implemented formal, research-based brand strategies.” Hayes, a professor of marketing at Xavier University, worked with mStoner to develop and conduct the survey and analyze the results. Maue, a senior strategist at mStoner, led mStoner’s internal research team.

Key findings:

  • Seventy-six percent of survey respondents say that they have completed a brand strategy project at their institution.
  • Most have done brand strategy work recently. Seventy-three percent of respondents who have done a brand strategy project have completed it within the past 5 years.
  • Institutions are committing significant resources to brand strategy. Thirty percent of respondents said they spent over $200,000, while 53 percent have spent more than $100,000.
  • They are doing brand research among external audiences. Fully three-quarters of respondents say the process included qualitative research with external constituents and 73 percent said it included quantitative research with external constituents.
  • They are using external partners. A whopping 92 percent said they relied on an outside consultant for market research, while 78 percent relied on an outside consultant for the brand strategy phase.

In an email, mStoner President Michael Stoner said, “We wanted to do this research because we recognized that there is significant value to leaders in higher education to having information about how to develop and implement a brand strategy for their campus — and how to do it effectively. And we knew that this information existed in case studies and articles, but not in a readily available format that allowed people to benchmark their own initiatives. This was a great way to learn about these issues ourselves — and to share what we learned with our colleagues.”

This study should provide higher ed marketers with additional data to make the case for branding investments. As Hayes put it: “The more informed one is, the better they can argue the case for the research needed to develop a strategic institutional brand strategy and communicate the expected outcomes and benefits from the process. This research provides the information necessary to accomplish both of these objectives.”

P.S. – Inside Higher Ed reports in-depth on the findings.

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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.

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