Simon Williams of the Sterling Group has come up with a list of 10 new rules of branding. You should read the entire article. But just in case you’re in too big a hurry, here’s Williams’ top 10 list — with a bit of commentary from me about how these rules might pertain to marketing and branding in higher education.
1) Brands that influence culture sell more; culture is the new catalyst for growth. Colleges and universities influence culture — from sports and entertainment to the element of prestige that comes from holding a degree from a particular institution. The more prestigious and influential a college or university, the more it influences the culture, and the better its chances of “selling” to prospective students, alumni, research partners, etc.
2) A brand with no point of view has no point; full-flavor branding is in, vanilla is out. This is a big problem for many colleges and universities. We all talk about our “tradition of academic excellence,” “caring faculty” and so on. It means nothing. Let’s put some attitude in our marketing copy.
3) Today’s consumer is leading from the front; this is the smartest generation to have ever walked the planet. Prospective students and their families aren’t just relying on the college viewbook for their information. They’re finding third-party views online, via the college rankings guides, and elsewhere. They’re more savvy than we give them credit for, and they have a very sensitive BS detector.
4) Customize wherever and whenever you can; customization is tomorrow’s killer whale. Customized degrees, perhaps? No more one-size-fits-all academic programs? Why not have students customize their classes — complete them at their own pace?
5) Forget the transaction, just give me an experience; the mandate is simple: Wow them every day, every way. The college experience is one of the stronger benefits of the college brand — assuming the experience is good, that is. Colleges and universities are as much about the experience as about the education.
6) Deliver clarity at point of purchase; be obsessive about presentation. With so many colleges and universities these days, we must become obsessive about why we are the preferred choice.
7) You are only as good as your weakest link; do you know where you’re vulnerable? Ouch. Lots of weak links in higher ed — too many to list here.
8) Social responsibility is no longer an option; what’s your cause, what’s your contribution? This is a tremendous opportunity for higher education, one of the greatest causes of all.
9) Pulse, pace, and passion really make a difference; had your heartbeat checked recently? The pace of change in higher ed is glacial. Face it: most colleges and universities are based on a model from the medieval days. Can our old institutions keep pace?
10) Innovation is the new boardroom favorite. Higher ed should innovate with new curricula, new degree programs, new methods of delivering education.
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