School Marketing: Branding

This is the first article in a five-part series that details exactly what you need to market your school or university. School or university marketing is unique in that you're selling education and opportunity. But you're also selling an environment, a community and a pedigree. And that means that even though your product is different, your basic marketing requirements are the same as any business or nonprofit in the United States. High enrollment figures begin with successful branding, so the following details how you can brand your school for success.

Importance of a branded image

Ever notice how Harvard - or any Ivy League school - enjoys a reputation for being the best of the best and how some universities are labeled as party schools? While there might be truth to such claims, the fact that such schools perpetuate the labels means that they understand the power of branding. Sure, Harvard is an elite school but you can be certain there are more than a couple of parties near campus every weekend; and you can get an elite education at a "party school." By branding your school you can more easily recruit your ideal students and keep your lecture halls full, happy and educated.

How to identify your branded image

Not every university is created equal, and often smaller schools struggle to find an identity. They either must limit their offering to two-year degrees in order to cater to everyone, or they must specialize in a certain field so they can offer advanced degrees (as opposed to larger institutions that have several specialized schools within the larger campus). Thus, you might be a cost-effective community college with a broad offering. Or, you might be a business school catering to busy professionals. Or maybe you're an alternative college that offers free education in exchange for student work. Decide what your school is, then work to define your target audience. Ask yourself two questions: What do students experience at your school, and how will that experience help them once they leave your school? Consider your schools greatest benefits, what it does different from the competition and how the competition approaches your target audience, and then develop a unique selling point that is attractive to your audience and different/better than your competition. This is your branded image, and you will use it to market your school.

Branding through design

If you're charged with invigorating a school marketing campaign, you might be somewhat limited by tradition. After all, you're not going to get Ohio State University to abandon its Buckeyes logo. However, you can create alternative logos that market your unique selling point. Design is a very powerful thing, and the right graphic designer will be able to take your brand image from a concept to a visual motivator that embodies everything your school is to your students.