Most colleges and universities know they will soon be competing for a shrinking pool of applicants. The projected number of high school graduates, the demographic most likely to apply to college, is expected to decline between 2008–2009 and 2013–2014. In addition, the number of students who can afford expensive institutions has been dropping during the current recession. But many colleges and universities have expanded in recent years and need to fill their spots.
This situation prompted Roger Dooley at NeuroscienceMarketing to question whether institutions of higher education are diluting their brands to market themselves to larger groups of prospective students.
Dooley encourages marketing professionals at colleges and universities to consider the following aspects to avoid brand dilution in marketing materials:
Emphasize location – This may reduce the number of students who apply to a school. Dooley points out there’s little sense, for example, in marketing a rural campus to students who want to study at an urban university.
Succinct tagline – Describe the mission of your school in one sentence and use it in your marketing materials. You can’t be all things to all students.
Name Recognition – Move beyond name recognition and present what is ‘special’ about the institution.
Dooley's comments are an important reminder that quantity does not equal quality and for an institution of higher education, that distinction may be crucial for the long term.[Sources: Dooley, Roger. College Branding. NeuroscienceMarketing.com. 7.17.09; Roach, Ronald. “Diverse Issues in Higher Education," 5.1.2008.]