The Importance of Branding in Higher Education

Harvard, Oxford, Columbia, Princeton; such established names, we can omit the word university and still catch the connecting thread. What these institutions have in common, aside from one word titles the like of Beyoncé, are world class identities. They have recognition that resonates far beyond any one program or faculty. In short, their brands are so well known they speak for themselves.

This infamy wasn’t built quickly. Rather, it’s the result of years of academic excellence, ground-breaking research, and yes, successful marketing campaigns. These examples offer a valuable marketing lesson; investment of branding in higher education matters. 

What is Brand Strategy

Here’s why:

1. Competition is Overwhelming.

According to statista, there were at least 164 university and higher education institutions in the UK during the 2018-2019 academic year. That’s not even considering international competition abroad. Recognizable names are low hanging fruit amongst this plethora of options. After all, how are students supposed to consider a school they’ve never heard of before?

Let’s get more granular. Perhaps you’d rather promote a course instead? The challenge persists. A simple search on UCAS yields a total of 1918 Psychology courses from 181 providers for this upcoming academic year. No prospective student has the time to sift through all 1900 university programs. They’re going to start with school or program they are most familiar with and work their way down. 

Both these concepts drive the same conclusion: Make the decision easy for students. Institutions which sit top of mind already have a massive lead in student consideration. Investing in brand awareness for the entire university is a surefire way to stay memorable against such stiff competition. 

2. The Larger the Consumer’s Investment, the More it’s Scrutinized.

You wouldn’t purchase a £2k computer from a brand you aren’t familiar with, so why expect a similar impromptu purchase for a £40k education? Some students spend years researching their academic journey. Your campaigns should meet them at each stage of that journey, not just the final click to apply. 

Investing in brand awareness campaigns helps to reach students early in their consideration journey, placing your university at the forefront of their decision making process. When it’s finally time for students  to apply, reap the rewards from years of brand building exercises.

3. Upper Funnel Messaging is Significantly Cheaper.

Get more juice out of your marketing budgets. Low funnel campaigns are roughly 2-5x more expensive than upper funnel objectives like awareness and traffic campaigns. This is seen across the majority of platforms and social media sites. 

Investments into high funnel objectives result in increased unique reach and, depending on the audience size, a higher frequency of impressions. They also reduce the cost per conversion for supplementary lower funnel campaigns, as your audience is already primed to covert. Take the heavy lifting off your recruitment campaigns and bring branding into the mix ahead of time. 

4. The Power of Pride

Part of brand work is image maintenance. It’s an exercise to reinforce ideals and values back onto your organization in a public forum. In the case of higher education, it’s about sustaining a sense of pride in your institution for students and employees alike. 

It’s said the best ambassadors of the brand are your current people; your students, academics, and other staff members who represent you each day. Crucially, in order for that to work there needs to be a consensus. Positive and visible branding can help foster pride amongst these key individuals, creating a sense of honour. Build enough of it, and positive sentiment will follow via word of mouth, free of charge.  

As the infamous quote goes, “image is everything,” and brand campaigns are the number one way to publicly lift your image amongst the people you already have. 

So there you have it, just a few ways investing in branding campaigns are critical to the success of a higher education institution. Looking for more advice with brand campaigns? Your friendly neighbourhood Adgen team is here to help. 

Did you enjoy this blog post on branding in higher education? If so, click here to read our previous blog post.