Rob Moore heads up an 82-person marketing consultancy that strives to produce powerful ideas that clear the mind - and the field.
Explain how branding has been viewed on many campuses as one of the black arts.
Many people took their understanding of brand and branding from what they knew of consumer goods. There was a great deal of residual cynicism, and the belief was widespread, that corporations will say anything to sell a product. College and university people don't want their mission-based activity to be sold like a product.
What portion of the higher education industry still views branding that way?
Far fewer. Our 2008 survey disclosed that 97 percent of campus communications officers responding say that the terms brand or branding are in use on their campuses. So it's an activity now well worth considering or pursuing throughout higher education.
Is change of viewpoint underway?
Yes. People have a more thorough understanding today of what brand is. They are more able to distinguish between a school's mission, a school's brand and a school's logo. For example, my book is the first ever published by CASE on the topic. As another example, the American Marketing Association now has a well-attended higher education marketing symposium in which 25 percent of the topics covered were about brand.
How can an effective brand campaign affect the people who do the shopping for high school students on their way to college?
Our research shows the school choice is still made primarily by the student. But the consideration set, which includes location, type of school, cost and other buying factors, involve the parents. Families will pay more for what they regard has greater value. Their value perception can be strongly driven by brand perception, as long as the brand promise is kept.
How might an effective brand campaign affect adults buying higher education for themselves?
Adult students who are paying for their own education have pride in what they have earned for themselves. The recognition factor about the quality of their degree is extremely important to them - and often to their employers as well. That recognition is based on the strength of the school's brand.
Why might a campus launch a new brand campaign?
For a number of reasons. A brand campaign might be enrollment-based. A school may want to increase the quantity and quality of prospects in the funnel. They may want to alter or improve the makeup of an entering class. When students understand the brand promise as delivered by the actual experience, retention improves. Other new brand campaigns may galvanize alumni, improve academic recognition, or cultivate readiness for a capital campaign.
Is pain involved?
Often, yes. Branding is strategic. Strategy requires decisions. It's often wince-inducing to learn what the market actually thinks of you. It can also be difficult to discard yesterday's bright idea.
What might a marketing executive at University of Cincinnati mention as a principal benefit?
By clarifying their brand and developing a compelling brand expression their enrollment targets were surpassed five years running.
Is there a noteworthy example at Northern Arizona University?
Alumni there felt strongly that they received a great education. But their employers and peers did not share their high regard. An alternate narrative was necessary. The brand campaign led with the message "Mountain Air Makes You Smarter." Each alum now had a new and effective response to the question 'Why did you go to Northern Arizona?' Enrollment has soared.
What's one common college branding mistake?
Don't make a promise you can't or won't keep.
Will higher education's customers continue to be an increasing number, and for how long?
Yes, driven by a steadily increasing adult population.