Education. The backbone for modern society. A footpath to a productive future. The foundation for social prosperity and gateway to economic growth.
The landscape of higher education—the growing variety of educational institutions, the competitive ecosystem, increasing globalization—is changing rapidly. Today’s prospective students have a vast array of choices: private or public school, large or small, domestic or international, liberal arts or technical—and the list goes on.
Like businesses competing for the most skilled workers, academic institutions compete vigorously for talented students and highly acclaimed faculty. They also seek donors—corporations, alumni and wealthy patrons—who can help them expand their reach, attract new students and grow their brands. Higher education is a broad marketplace, and no college or university can rest on its laurels.
New learning curve
The globalization of higher education means that more students are traveling internationally in their pursuit of knowledge. Over the last decade, the number of students studying outside of their home country grew at an unprecedented rate. According to the Institute of International Education, nearly 4 million students studied abroad in 2011, compared to just over 2 million in 2000. Newly emerging countries in the developing world—including China, Saudi Arabia and India—have entered the competitive higher education market and are re-mapping the flow of global talent.
The recent explosion of for-profit institutions has further differentiated higher eductation. In addition to offering career training and associate’s degrees, these organizations—both online and off-line—are moving into the bachelor’s and graduate degree markets. Other entrants into the education industry include management training programs such as McDonald’s Hamburger University, which offers college credit in the U.S. and is accredited at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK.
And while American universities continue to set application records, student debt levels have reached the $1 trillion mark, which surpasses the amount owned on all credit cards in the U.S. There is also growing skepticism about whether a college degree translates into a well-paying job, especially in today’s difficult economic climate.
ABCs of branding
For many academic institutions, brand strategy is limited to marketing and advertising campaigns. But to be truly effective, they need to understand what their brand is all about—and what is important to their constituents. At Siegel+Gale, we are experts in identifying the elements that define and differentiate organizations. Our expertise is discovering what is truly excellent in an institution and creating a powerful and compelling story that resonates with audiences.
The challenge of building educational brands is compounded by numerous collegiate rankings as well as abundant online tools, publications and other resources. We help institutions define and consistently deliver on their brand promise, which creates positive impressions and perceptions.
Another key element of developing an educational brand—and reaching prospective students—is providing a comprehensive digital strategy that drives consumer engagement. This includes building vibrant websites that directly engage users and using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to forge a connection and create a dialogue with students.
Building a strong brand—and clearly and consistently communicating its unique story—is essential for any company or organization. For educational institutions, recognizing the value of branding is critical in attracting the best and brightest students and standing out from the competition.
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