Three Elements of Brand Value in Higher Education

Three Elements of Brand Value in Higher Education

What draws prospective students to your college or university? Is it the school’s prestigious reputation, a program widely regarded as one of the best in its field, or perhaps even a high-profile professor who is an expert in their area of study?

There are different elements of brand value to consider when marketing for higher education, and each can play a role in growing enrollments.

Elements of Higher Education Brand Value to Consider

Let’s take a look at three key elements of higher education brand value:

Brand value of the school

Every school has a geographic bullseye representing their brand reach, and the power of a school’s brand largely determines the size of that bullseye. 

The most prestigious Ivy League schools have a worldwide reach, while other schools’ reach may only extend to the borders of the states in which they are located. In some cases, schools have a global reach that is more concentrated locally—in fact, even the most popular brand names carry more weight in their local markets. 

Some schools expand their reach via recognition for non-academic reasons. For example, a school whose basketball team ranks in the March Madness Final Four is likely to be well-known among sports fans on the other side of the country.

While these fans might not be the school’s target audience for enrollment, a savvy higher education marketing team could take advantage of the brand’s lift during March Madness and use it as an opportunity to increase awareness of academic programs.

Brand value of the program

Some schools are best known for specific academic programs. We see many programs with a high brand value in the non-credit space. For instance, a CPA or a CFP might need a professional credential to improve their marketability or grow their own business and seek out a particular school with a well-known program in that field.

In fact, in the continuing education arena, the brand value of the program often takes precedence over the brand value of the school—although the latter still factors into the decision-making process in a more subtle, roundabout way. Prospects look for a good program first and foremost, often choosing the most familiar one (i.e., the closest geographically). 

Our experience shows us that even potential students applying for online courses tend to stick to programs within 50-75 miles of their home—presuming the programs are a good fit for them in other ways. This trend indicates that the school’s geographic bullseye of brand reach (directly linked to its brand value) is still ultimately relevant when the brand value of the program is most important.

Brand value of the faculty

In a few unique cases, schools have a faculty member who is a celebrity in their field and can leverage that individual’s personal brand value to drive enrollments. High-profile figures like Adam Grant and Dr. Laurie Santos are professors who have enough clout to draw in students interested in their areas of expertise. 

However, it’s worth noting that many schools overestimate the importance of their faculty’s brand value. For instance, having Nobel Laureates on staff matters to a certain extent, but not as much as schools may think (and possibly not as much as those esteemed professors deserve). While those credentials may impress prospective students pursuing a master’s degree or a PhD in relevant fields, they’re less likely to tip the scales for undergraduates.

MindMax Helps Schools Improve Brand Value

At MindMax, we help schools improve their brand value and leverage the brand value they already have to grow enrollments

From a geographic perspective, we may observe that a school has a reach of 100 miles, but their marketing extends only 25 miles. We’ll work with them to fill that 75-mile gap and expand their reach to the limits of their geographic bullseye. 

We also help colleges and universities identify opportunities to reach entirely new markets outside of what they previously thought was feasible. For example, we helped one university in New England extend the reach for their medical cannabis program all the way to Colorado and the Pacific Northwest, where an addressable market for that program already naturally exists. 

The possibilities are greater than many schools ever imagine—all it takes is the right higher education marketing partner to consider brand value from various perspectives and leverage it strategically. If you’d like to learn more, please reach out to MindMax, and we’ll be in touch soon.