Really interesting piece in Times Higher Education about Universities and branding (or propaganda!):

Although I hate much of the jargon of branding – “positioning”, “differentiation”, “USP” – I believe that the discipline of branding is a good thing for any organisation.

It’s a good thing because trying to build a brand forces1185407_brands_flood you to answer some fundamental “why” questions. Why should I apply to your university? Why should I work for you? Why should I fund your research? Why should I care? Why should you exist? Branding at its best is radical – it goes to the roots, and it creates change.

And the truth is that both universities and branding are changing. Universities are of course competing more than ever. Today’s (slightly unhinged) obsessionwith league tables simply shows people’s need to compare, separate and distinguish among a mass of similar-looking institutions. Students, parents, employers, academics and governments are inexorably demanding more of universities. And the digital transformation of education is only just starting. Like it or not, universities will have to explain their role, their value, to the world.

Meanwhile, branding is not what it was. It’s no longer primarily about persuasion – making people want things.

People today are well-informed, powerful and awkward, and easily decode traditional branding. They’re less “consumers” and more what the French call consommacteurs. They want to know what, in exchange for their money, time, effort and data, you will enable them to do. Many newer brands – Google, Facebook, Wikipedia – act in this way, as platforms, not as persuaders.

Read full article.

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