One of the most important aspects of branding for colleges and universities is to avoid the trap of trying to be all things to all people.
In brand studies of like-minded colleges, their websites, recruiting materials, advertising, and messaging often looked and sounded the same—mainly because they wanted to show that they could satisfy the needs of all prospective students, regardless of what their pursuits might be.
The reality is every school needs to have a clear understanding of what it can and can’t do. Whether it’s the size and scope of the school, or the type of programs it offers, a school should market to prospective students who best fit its profile. Small colleges won’t fit students who want every program under the sun. Large universities can’t meet the needs of students who want small classes and an intimate campus. Liberal arts schools can’t serve wannabe engineers, and tech schools can’t help future poets. It’s that simple.
What many institutions need is a clear focus on what they want to be or become. It’s important that each school establishes a positioning that defines its target student audience, its competitive category AND its unique value proposition. Going through a positioning exercise will help shape this profile and focus the marketing—which will simplify the range of strategies needed to effectively reach the students you want.