University Branding?

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.


Non-Coporate Mavericks on Branding?

Ha, seen this in action:

Branding conference delegates warned of dangers of breakaway groups. David Matthews reports

Universities must rein in departments or schools that create different “sub-brands” for themselves or they risk diluting their overall identity, a senior lecturer in marketing has warned.

Chris Chapleo, of Bournemouth University, told a conference on university branding in London on 31 October that a “difficult communications challenge” could be created if “maverick and free-thinking” academics were to “pull away” from an institution’s brand.

He cited the example of a university he had previously worked at, where a “pocket of excellence” within the institution had “decided arbitrarily to create their own identity, to create their own sub-website”.

Please – universities – don’t become so consumed by conformity to brand, that the individual voices of expertise, and their departments, become dull corporate feeds! Read full article.


University Websites?

Do universities need to work harder on their websites?

Universities’ messages were clear and lacked jargon, but they were often unfocused and hard to find, said Jim Bodoh, a brand consultant at Radley Yeldar who led the study.

Institutions also did little to explain what they offer or substantiate their claims, he added.

“The best universities are used to having a queue of students lining up to be on their courses, so the motivation isn’t there to tell a particularly compelling story,” said Mr Bodoh, who has worked with the academy throughout his career.

“If you were to look at the amount of effort and resources that go into the whole area of marketing by universities, it would probably roughly be inversely proportional to their position in the ‘pecking order’. Some simply have to try harder.”

Read full story.


Branding and Perception in #highered

I’m interested in branding, but truly believe that a brand has to represent authentically what something is about… can consultants who are not at the centre of a brand really help… Times Higher Education has an article which indicates… not:

Paul Temple, reader in higher education management at the Institution of Education, has argued that although branding consultants have said they can change a university’s reputation, it can be built up only by years of academic excellence.

The attack comes as many universities are spending heavily on branding consultants to gear up for the new marketised sector.

Writing in Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, the journal of the Association of University Administrators, Dr Temple argues that “people are not, mostly, idiots: they will see what is branding candyfloss and what is the reality, created over time by good management and a well-nurtured academic culture. Branding work…can have no significant impact on these matters.”

Even the most “credulous” university managers would not be persuaded that branding consultants could find short cuts to improve an institution’s reputation, he adds.

“If there were, we can be sure that someone would have found them by now,” he writes.

Read full story, and see also how the Australians are improving their chances with a different attitude.,



Checking out @Distinct_in_HE

Distinct HE Project Website

Tricia Scott, research leader for the project, said that universities had to discover and communicate the “core” of what they do.

But at the moment, she said, “we all use exactly the same words” and many mission statements resembled a “horse designed by a committee”.

“If you look at mission statements in the sector, you see camels,” she said.

Ms Scott pointed to Ikea’s motto – “affordable design” – as one that pithily captured what was distinctive about the company.

Distinctiveness was “not about being unique” but about finding a “combination of things” that add up to a distinctive whole, she said.

She added that an institution’s distinguishing qualities had to be “imperfectly imitable”, otherwise competitors would simply copy them.

Ms Scott suggested that universities conduct a “brand audit” to see what consumers think about them – in the same way that Brains, a Cardiff-based brewery, had done. The brewer found that its brand was associated with tradition, the elderly and local Cardiff pubs, prompting a rebranding exercise based on “optimism”.

Asked if there was an industry with 150 distinctive brands, Ms Scott pointed to the retail sector, where “at least” that many were to be found.

Read full story, read more from The Leadership Foundation, and on the project website.