LaneTerralever’s Brand Strategy for Higher Education

Higher Education Brand Strategy & Development

When it comes to higher education marketing, strategies have changed drastically over the years. The rise of social media and the increase in options for higher education has created a competitive element to student advertising that must be addressed. From the smallest of specialized liberal arts schools to those in the Ivy League, higher education branding helps communicate the value of a college experience to aspiring students. Implementing a higher education brand strategy solidifies your brand presence, which allows you to establish and reinforce an ownable brand position and message to all prospective students. Brand strategy is a pillar of marketing strategy and one that should be considered a first step to a comprehensive plan. From a marketing standpoint, higher education institutions must pinpoint what makes them unique. By highlighting the unique aspects of your educational institution and presenting a consistent, appealing message, you can build a brand that will stand out from your competitors and keep your school top of mind for students year after year.

Where Higher Education Brand Strategy Starts

At its core, brand strategy is the process of uncovering a research-based insight to develop a single, ownable position for a brand, service, or institution. Higher education brand strategy is no different.  A unique and clear brand for a college or university helps keep your message consistent at every touchpoint and platform. The brand strategy process can’t begin without an organization’s core mission and values. Once identified, these values and the mission should be part of the foundation of your brand strategy. But it’s the research into your brand — what students, staff/faculty, and alumni say as well as the actions your organization does and doesn’t take layered with the trends in the competitive landscape — that brand strategy starts to come alive and become actionable.

Once a consistent and foundational brand strategy is solidified, all higher education marketing (including social media, digital, traditional and email marketing) will give students a cohesive brand experience that resonates with their individual values and personal goals. The best higher education agencies know how to use a school’s brand as a launch pad for institutional-and-school level campaigns that support one another but can also stand independently.

Higher Education Customer Journey Mapping

A customer journey map, or a student journey map, becomes a valuable tool to understand friction points throughout the process of a prospective student becoming a registered student. Each friction point represents marketing opportunities. The student journey starts with the source of truth — the student — documenting his or her experiences, thought processes, and emotions along their consideration journey. Because not one student is the same, journey maps can be challenging to visualize as the journey is rarely linear. However, this is a crucial step in the brand strategy process because it provides a roadmap for all marketers to strategize from. It helps organizations understand the student experience from their perspective and identify areas where marketing efforts can be optimized to better meet students’ needs and drive schools’ desired outcomes. In addition, by mapping out the student journeys that match the variety of student experiences, institutions can gain insight into how they can create a positive and memorable experience for their students.

Higher Education Persona Development

To make a meaningful impression, it’s essential to focus your efforts on your ideal target student. This can range from high school students wanting to further their education to non-traditional students looking to catalyze a career change. With a clearly articulated brand position, you can cater your messages and actions to those who resonate with your brand. This will result in more qualified leads. Personas put a human face on the data to help marketers better understand buying triggers and move audiences toward those desired behaviors. 

While developing your student personas, you will likely uncover new ideas for content directly related to the personas’ goals, questions, and challenges. In fact, these ideas can often form the basis of your next campaign, including content for blog posts, downloadable content, and lead nurture emails, etc. Not only will your personas spark new ideas for content, but they will also empower your team to create content that effectively appeals to your ideal students’ unique needs to reach your marketing goals. 


Message Development

The next step in developing the brand strategy is to create specific, targeted messages for each persona at every stage. Every school should start with institutional brand messaging, establishing the value proposition and how that becomes pulled through to the key pillars of your institutional brand and articulated through the proof points that make that value proposition true. These messages can then be tailored to each persona’s particular needs and pain points and speak directly to them, helping to build a connection and establish trust. To help alleviate this pain point, consider conducting market research to understand each persona better and ask about their overall thoughts regarding the student journey they have previously experienced. These messages should be rooted in your foundational research, but should also be vetted with feedback from existing students to understand what did or did not resonate with them during their journey. Ultimately, don’t build your brand messaging through assumptions. Instead, message development must be backed by actual results from existing students. 

Continuously refining and improving the institution’s messaging means that you are effectively connecting with and engaging your target audience and building stronger relationships. At the end of the day, prospective students want a clear picture of what they’ll get out of their education by choosing your institution.

Lufthansa Aviation Training Media Strategy for Recruitment

Higher Education Go-To-Market Strategy 

More than ever, a brand’s website is its primary calling card. Most prospective students start researching schools online, and your website is probably the first time they will come into contact with your brand and brand messaging. Be data-driven in your approach as you design, including being mobile-friendly, easy to navigate, and effective UX design. Simple and straightforward navigation can prevent confusion, allowing prospective students to find what they’re looking for easily. Institutions wanting to highlight and encourage student prospects to explore specific programs or services can use UX design to make the journey to those pages as easy and painless as possible. 

Now, more than ever, social media is the first place students see your brand.  It becomes a way to show students (past, present, and future) that you have shared values with them. This is critical, given that value alignment can inform everything, given the younger generations are more driven by purpose.  Social media in higher education presents a powerful creative thinking and presentation opportunity. As crucial as traditional information sources such as books and academic journals are, social media can be considered a valid research and communication tool. 

And finally, with a robust and high-quality content marketing strategy, your institution can create more impactful content that aligns with your brand messaging. One thing to note is that content itself can go beyond just having social media accounts and short blog posts. It can include incorporating videos, in-depth and long-form articles, podcasts, infographics, and other enhanced content types. However, before embracing new initiatives, your institution can benefit from conducting content audits or researching related research reports. With the right insights, this can strengthen your current content efforts, embrace new and promising content development strategies, and generate the right results for better student recruitment and engagement. 


Build Your Higher Education Brand Strategy with LaneTerralever

In today’s competitive higher education world, an intelligent approach to brand strategy is imperative. LaneTerralever’s proven knowledge and expertise allow us to do more than just create a brand for your institution. Through extensive research, we identify your institution’s unique personality and transform the way you communicate to your audience. Harnessing this human connection will give you a competitive edge in building a powerhouse reputation that’s authentic to your college or university.

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