10 new brand rules — and what they mean for higher ed

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.

Link via brandXpress

branding, Marketing

In branding, KISS rocks

That’s KISS as in “keep it short and simple,” not the band that made me want to rock and roll all night and party every day back in high school. But KISS the rock band knew what every branding pro understands: POA. (That’s the power of the acronym, for those of you not in the know.)

In “Alphabet branding,” Derrik J. Lang of AP’s news service for the under-35 demographic, asap (yet another acronym), points out that marketers are giving our alphabet’s 26 letters quite a workout.

“Thanks to the modern boon of branding,” writes Lang, “letter combinations are now imbued with meaning far beyond the kindergarten catchalls of ‘A’ for apple and ‘Z’ for zebra. Tons of time and money is spent rejigging and reimagining corporate word jumbles so at-home audiences regurgitate the appropriate feeling.”

In the marketplace these days, it seems ‘X’ is for extreme, ‘W’ is for hip, ‘I’ is for technology and any amalgamation can mean something entirely different — no matter what it actually stands for.

“In the good old days of naming, you named your company for what it did,” said Martyn Tipping, president and director of brand strategy for big-time marketing firm Tipping Sprung. “So if you sold business machines internationally, you’d call yourself International Business Machines. Your name described what you did and everyone was happy.”

But “IBM” is much, much easier to say than “International Business Machines.” So is “3M” instead of “Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing” and “AARP” rather than “American Association of Retired Persons.”

Training the public for this initial recall, Tipping says, requires “millions upon millions of dollars” and “years and years of sustained investment.” His firm does just that for companies such as Dell, Verizon and Gillette.

It seems many universities have a built-in advantage with this branding name game. At the University of Missouri-Rolla, where I work, we’re doing all we can to brand ourselves as UMR. It’s worked for USC, UCLA and countless other campuses, so maybe it’ll work for us.

branding, marketing

Profs: don’t sacrifice high-touch for high-tech

Memo to faculty: Your students want you to be tech-savvy, but don’t get carried away.

That’s the message of a survey (pdf) of 18,000-plus college students, conducted by the Educause Center for Applied Research. The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) reports:

College students want faculty members to use information technology, but students nevertheless hunger for the human touch in courses as well, according to a new survey of 18,039 freshmen and seniors at 63 institutions.

Forty-one percent of the students said they preferred their professors to make moderate use of information technology. By comparison, 26 percent said they preferred only limited use, while 27 percent sought extensive use.

“They really want to see it balanced,” said Robert B. Kvavik, an associate vice president of the University of Minnesota who worked on the survey. “They value the interaction among themselves and with faculty, and they don’t want technology to get in the way of that.”

“The students see technology right now as supplemental rather than transformative,” said Mr. Kvavik.

Students in the survey most commonly said that convenience was the primary benefit of the use of technology in courses. They cited “connectedness” second.

Full story (subscription required).

education, technology, Internet, web

‘WOW and COOL’ = LAME and USELESS

So says Josh Hallett of hyku blog, who reports:

I received a web brief for a project I have been asked to consult on. One line in particular sticks out (when discussing the attributes of the web site):

break through the clutter with a WOW and COOL web presence

That’s just the problem, WOW and COOL usually end up becoming Flash-based, lame and foster no long-term relationship with the user, just like every other ‘edgy’ site. Making your web site WOW and COOL means you are the clutter.

branding, design, Marketing, web, web design

In-state tuition for immigrants not a big draw

Offering in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants has gone over big in Texas, but that technique hasn’t been so successful in other states with similar laws on the books.

The Boston Globe reports “more modest increases in the majority of states providing such benefits.” Texas, with its 1.4 million undocumented immigrants, increased immigrant enrollment in its public universities from 1,500 in the fall of 2001 to roughly 8,000 last year.

Meanwhile, in California, where there are roughly 2.4 million undocumented immigrants, the University of California system saw an increase of only 357 illegal immigrant students.

education, higher education, immigrants, immigration

Blogs don’t help your marketing

At least that’s the take of copywriter and consultant Bob Bly, who claims that business blogs are little more than rambling, self-indulgent, stream-of-consciousness flotsam that yield no return on investment. He writes, in part:

Blogs are, by virtue of being a form of online diary, like diaries: rambling, incoherent, and more suited for private thoughts than public consumption.

If you have something of value to share, there are many better formats for doing it online than by blogging, including white papers, e-zines, and Web sites. …

[M]ost blogs seem to be the private idiosyncratic musings of an individual, without censure or editing of any kind. And the result is like porridge: a gloppy mess, tasteless, and not very satisfying.

Until that changes, I can’t see starting and maintaining a blog of your own, unless you are bored and looking for something to do, or require an outlet for self-expression. And if the latter is the case, well … why not just buy and keep a diary instead?

So, blogs have no value.

Thomas Paine‘s pamphlets didn’t bring him much money, either. But they helped to stoke the embers of the American Revolution.

Needless to say, Bob doesn’t blog.

Link via Jim Symcox, who suggests we read Tinu Abayomi-Paul’s ebook (pdf) about why blogging can be worthwhile and profitable.

blogging, marketing

Zen and the art of presentation

Ever gone to a conference all enthused about a speaker who is supposedly tops in his or her field, only to be let down when he or she clicks on the big-screen presentation?

Me too.

Regardless of your business, Really Bad PowerPoint (pdf) can disillusion even the heartiest conference-goer. And when administrators and other talkers use PowerPoint slides as oversized cue cards, it makes those of us in the business of marketing and communications writhe in agony.

Which is why I would love for academic administrators to read the worthwhile advice Garr Reynolds offers on his blog, Presentation Zen. His post on the contrasting presentation styles of two lords of the computing industry, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, should be required reading for anyone who wields a laptop and LCD projector.

Take a look at the examples below. Forget for a minute about who is presenting. Focus on the presentation. Beginner’s mind, people.

So, which of these presentations would you rather sit in on?

This one?

Steve Jobs presenting

Or this one?

Bill Gates presenting

OK, so we all know that Steve Jobs is orders of magnitude cooler than Bill Gates, and that Jobs’s Apple represents the aesthetic side of computing, while Gates’s Microsoft represents all things corporate. But for the most part, Gates owns presentations. Microsoft’s PowerPoint is all-pervasive in the world of presentations. It’s used in board meetings, conferences, classrooms, to push product and even to entertain. It’s the 800-pound gorilla of presentationdom.

But PowerPoint doesn’t have to be bad. (Read Seth Godin‘s little ebook (pdf) to learn ways to make your presentations more meaningful, or at least a little less dull. And read what Reynolds has to say about zen and the art of presentation. If you get nothing else, get this:

A key tenet of the Zen aesthetic is kanso or simplicity. In the kanso concept beauty, grace, and visual elegance are achieved by elimination and omission. Says artist, designer and architect, Dr. Koichi Kawana, “Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means.” When you examine your visuals, then, can you say that you are getting the maximum impact with a minimum of graphic elements, for example? When you take a look at Jobs’ slides and Gates’ slides, how do they compare for kanso?

Hat tip to Seth Godin for the link.

Communications, marketing, PowerPoint, presentations