For many marketers, a brand initiative is an enticing idea. It’s also a time-consuming and costly process, so you need to make sure your institution is ready before you dive in. Just because you don’t like your logo doesn’t mean you need to scratch everything. But how do you know when the time is right?
Your Brand Doesn’t Reflect Your Values
Most would agree that your brand is not your logo or colors, although there are still some holdouts. Your brand isn’t the curriculum, study abroad opportunities, or the student-faculty ratio either. Your brand is your values – what’s important to you and what you stand for. It’s these brand values that should be the primary driving force behind your actions, decision-making, and behaviors. They also influence the way you connect with your target audiences. Your prospective students, internal audiences, alumni, donors, influencers, corporate partners, potential faculty hires, and others are more likely to engage with a brand whose values are aligned with their own.
Your Brand Is No Longer Relevant
We all know how hard it is to build a great brand, one that consistently inspires, influences, and compels. And in a time of constant change and heightened customer expectations, maintaining brand relevance is the key to remaining valuable to the people who matter to your institution. Brands need to evolve in a way that meets the needs of their target audiences, embraces change and innovation, and differentiates from the competition. At the same time, trying to stay relevant but not doing it authentically never works. A relevant brand must also align with where the institution is today and where it’s headed.
Your Brand Has Become Too Complicated
Sometimes people describe their brand, and several sentences into it, you still don’t understand their core message. That’s a bad sign. Simplicity makes a brand great. We lose this simplicity by trying to be everything to everyone. You can’t be everything to everyone. This is something most of us understand very well in our own personal lives, but it can be easy to lose sight of this in your brand and marketing efforts. No person, no company, no anything is universally beloved. The most popular restaurants on Yelp still get one-star reviews. The most critically acclaimed movies rarely reach 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you attempt to broadly appeal to everyone, it might work in the short-term, but over time, there’s a chance you won’t appeal to anyone.
Your Brand Doesn’t Stand Out from the Crowd
Higher ed generally suffers from a crisis of differentiation. It seems every time one institution discovers something that works well, others race to the same idea. But the reality is that people are attracted to different brands because they don’t all want the same thing. So why aren’t we enabling them to choose the brand that is most meaningful to them? Simply put, differentiation directly affects a brand’s short-term profitability and long-term viability. When your target audiences see brands as interchangeable, they make decisions primarily based on price. This ultimately compromises a brand’s ability to survive, especially in challenging market conditions. Differentiation is a long-term objective, not a “take one and call me in the morning” solution. Following the crowd never produces exceptional results.
If you said yes to any of the above, your institution is ready for a branding initiative. So now what? Join me and Mike Roe next month in Atlanta at Converge 2019 at our two-part workshop, Harnessing the Power of Research to Build a Brand and Leveraging Data to Achieve Long-Term Brand Success. At the end of this session, you will have a thorough understanding of all the steps involved in building, launching, and tracking a brand, complete with examples from many colleges and universities around the country.
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