CMOs to Improve Messaging, Branding for Colleges

Colleges and universities are getting the message that they’re operating in an increasingly competitive environment. A number of factors are converging to negatively impact the size of the applicant pool. To stay at the top of the list, institutions of higher education have realized they must improve their marketing.

A recent report in the Wall Street Journal highlights the woes many colleges face these days. For the next several years, demographic shifts means that a smaller than usual number of consumers will be entering the traditional college-​going years. On top of that, the soaring cost of higher education and the weak job market makes selling an expensive degree even more difficult. Non-​profit schools are also now competing with for-​profit institutions which are widely promoting their job-​placement success.

Some colleges have begun to hire chief marketing officers, often from the corporate world. As the marketing departments become established on campus, they are bringing in an outside perspective and asking the administration and educators to take a hard look at their mission and the product they are delivering.

The transition hasn’t gone well on all campuses. Many academicians bristle at the concept of operating in what they fear will be a business environment when they believe they are serving an educational purpose. Another challenge for colleges is finding a way to communicate and engage with parents and balance that need with the students’ growing independence. On some campuses, the best successes have centered on using ad campaigns to fine-​tune their branding – a strategy that resonates with the Millennials.

But as competition for the best students grows, expert more colleges and universities to officially explore way to market and brand themselves.

To learn more about this market, check out the Audience Interests & Attitudes report on Likely College Tuition Buyers from Ad-ology.

[Source: Glazer, Emily and Korn, Melissa. Marketing Pros: Big Brand on Campus. Online​.wsj​.com. 15 Aug. 2012. Web. 11 Sept. 2012] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.