September Strategically Speaking Webinar

You’ve done your research, developed a positioning strategy and brought your campus along for the ride. But bringing it to life and expressing it creatively is where the rubber meets the road in a branding initiative. How does an institution effectively move from brand strategy to creative concept and expression? What are the key elements that need to be addressed? How—and should—you touch your school’s logo or logo guidelines? Where does a good idea come from? What does it take to build a case and support for a big idea?

These are among the critical questions in the creative development process. They are answered in the fourth webinar of our series, which will explore the key elements of developing a powerful, moving creative strategy that is authentic to your brand.

Creatively Expressing Your Brand Strategy
Led by: Jason Simon and Matt Checkowski
Date: Thursday, September 10, 1:00-2:30pm ET
Registration fee: $295

Register today and learn more about the Strategically Speaking webinar series.

The Power of the Net Promoter Score

Many of the image and branding studies we conduct for clients include the calculation of a Net Promoter Score, or NPS. The NPS is commonly used by a wide variety of companies because it’s such a simple metric that represents brand strength and can be tracked over time and compared by audience. This article in Quirk’s describes how the NPS is used by AAA.

The NPS is based on one question, “Would you recommend [institution]?” And, sometimes it’s narrowed to, “Would you recommend [institution] to an undergraduate/graduate student?” On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1=not at all likely and 10=very likely, respondents who answer 1-6 are considered “detractors” while those who answer 9 or 10 are considered “promoters.” The NPS is the % of promoters minus the % of detractors.

In one study we conducted for a university, the NPS among current undergraduate students was 34 while the NPS among graduate students was just 12. In the same study, the NPS among students in one college was 24 while the NPS among students in another college was 51. These findings illustrate how powerful the simple NPS can be in highlighting areas of strength and weakness in a university’s brand.

Introducing Our New Brand Identity and Website

We’re thrilled to unveil our refreshed brand identity and redesigned website. The updates show the evolution of our company since its founding in 2006 and pave the way for how we’re moving forward. We wanted the brand to reflect our expanded capabilities and give us space to celebrate the fun, vibrant relationships we have with each of you.

You’ll notice new and refreshed identity elements like our logo and brighter colors, which were designed for use across digital and mobile. The continued use of the circles in our new logo is a nod to our research foundation and company roots; they are meant to convey measurement.

Over the last year we’ve begun to offer creative services, allowing us to extend our partnerships beyond the foundational market research work that we love. It’s this data that fuels better insights and creative that help our clients stand out in a crowded higher education marketplace and, ultimately, build brand strategies that endure.

We’re excited that our new website and brand identity showcase our capabilities and our continued commitment to the industry. We’ve built our careers in higher ed, and we’ve been in higher ed marketing from the beginning. We’ve seen the field mature, and we’ve grown and learned alongside our clients. And there’s nothing we love more than sharing what we’ve learned along the way.

With the introduction of our new website, we’ve created a comprehensive resource section featuring content designed to serve as a source of inspiration, conversation starter, and reference whether you’re new to higher ed or have been around as long as we have. Explore the resources page for more on what’s happening in the field, upcoming conferences, any announcements that come along, and helpful reference documents including sample RFPs, organizational charts, and brand guidelines that can give you a head start.

Along with our redesigned website, our monthly newsletter will also get a makeover – expect to see its new look in early July. Not signed up yet? Subscribe here.

Thank you to our entire community and clients for your continued support. Explore the site – and tell us what you think! Contact Kristen Ingels, Senior Brand Strategist, to share your thoughts or any questions.

Stanford Program Creates Meaningful Connections with Alumni

At SimpsonScarborough, we are often hired to conduct alumni engagement studies. These are projects designed to help a college or university understand how to get their alumni to reconnect with the institution. We’ve tested all kinds of engagement opportunities from online chats to trips around the world to meet-ups at local bars. Our research for multiple institutions has shown us that alumni don’t need as much help connecting socially. They seem to be able to keep up with their college friends without support from their alma mater. But they do tend to be interested in sponsored activities that allow them to relive the academic side of their college days.

The Stanford+Connects program offered by Stanford University is a perfect example. Alums from the Washington, DC area will have an opportunity to hear from Stanford’s president, John Hennessy, who is retiring next year and has been noted recently for his comments on the future of higher ed. They’ll also have the opportunity to listen to micro-lectures on topics such as gender and leadership, international relations with Russia, infectious disease, and marriage equality. The site that supports these events (which happen all over the country and the world) allows you to immediately check out who is registered; 91 people registered in DC within one day of receiving the invite via email. That’s alumni engagement at its finest.

Living Your Higher Ed Brand

For way too long, saying “marketing” on a college campus could get you in hot water (unless, of course, you were a marketing professor or student). Saying “brand” led to strange looks and skeptical associations of how you might belittle serious work with silly slogans or advertisements. But times are changing.

Signs abound that marketing in higher ed is maturing and becoming more critical to institutional success. From the rise of the Chief Marketing Officer on college campuses to impactful social media efforts that lead to amazing fundraising success, marketing has continued to come into its own.

But higher ed marketers are still searching for the holy grail—being able to truly impact organizational decisions and strategy, being seen as more than promotion, wrapped up in a flashy advertising campaign, or just “telling the story.” Hope lives as marketers take their seat at the leadership table. While stories of Sweet Briar loomed large in the last several months, not told was how a new VP of Marketing drove the organizational reflection that led former Pittsburgh women’s college Chatham University to go co-ed and reverse years of declining applications and enrollment within a year.

“Chatham so far has attracted 1,678 undergraduate applications, more than double the 655 at the same time last year and the five-year average of 792. Student deposits as of last week totaled 256, versus 145 last year, and all but 46 are first-time, first-year students, a demographic that had become increasingly scarce.”

At SimpsonScarborough we often discuss the brand continuum with our clients. Launching a campaign doesn’t equate to success. In fact, the ultimate success comes when institutions live their brands. Perhaps nowhere is that more apparent than at Arizona State University (ASU), where within the past year they have launched two notable initiatives (with notable fanfare) that truly represent their brand promise of being The New American University.

ASU, one of the nation’s largest universities, announced its partnership to help Starbucks employees earn and finish their degrees to much fanfare—and an equal amount of skepticism. Similarly, when it announced that it would launch a program with EdX to offer free (or nearly free) MOOC’s for credit (paid only when students earned credit), the naysayers piled on.

Despite the criticism, ASU and its trailblazing (and headline-grabbing) President Michael Crow were sticking true to their brand. You see, unlike so many colleges and universities that go into branding efforts by setting aside their missions and poorly articulating a vision, ASU made it crystal clear in making a visible change to its charter.

“ASU is a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed.”

While I am confident that not all the changes on campus have been accepted with similar enthusiasm or led to imminent success (nor do I profess to know all the intimate details), I do know this—the Starbucks and EdX programs are true representations of living the brand. And—unlike nearly EVERY university in the country—ASU has been able to dramatically increase its enrollment by nearly 24,000 students in 10 years despite dramatic (and continued) funding cuts resulting from the great recession.

Living the brand has already led to results that are driving great awareness, brand reach, and new students for ASU. When the Starbucks program opened, more than 5,000 students applied. 1,012 enrolled for the fall semester. 87 percent of the first class went on to register for the spring semester, and the program could lead to 25,000 new graduates over the next decade.

That’s creating market opportunity. That’s living the brand. And that’s where higher ed marketing is headed.

You’ll be able to hear more in-depth about how ASU is driving its brand at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education where Dan Dillon, Senior VP and Chief Marketing Officer, will be one of several terrific keynotes. Register now!