BENEFITS OF BRANDING FOR EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS.
Blog Post, Posted on February 01, 2017
At Phinney Bischoff, one of our passions is partnering with colleges and universities (as well as independent primary and secondary schools) to help them build compelling brands that attract the right kind of students, donors and educators. Through our work, we have seen first-hand both the tangible and intangible benefits of branding for education institutions.
Once of the most tangible benefits is increased applications and enrollment. Take Marylhurst University in Oregon as an example. We worked with the well-established, century-old university to transform its image into a contemporary brand that would resonate with various target audiences. Our strategy crystalized its core brand essence as a university offering “limitless adult learning”–a concept we reinforced through a comprehensive brand identity system, development of key communications, and creation of the “The University for Grownups” campaign. As a result, Marylhurst University saw a 55% increase in student applications in just the first three months after our rebrand.
A large part of increasing enrollment is communicating the “essence” of the school. Especially with colleges that are miles away from home–where students have to rely on apps, word of mouth, websites and materials to make their prequalifying decisions–it’s critical for a school to express a meaningful, relevant brand that reflects how prospective students see themselves or where they want to be. In our work with Portland State University, we launched the “FEARLESS” campaign, which highlighted the independent spirit PSU students and alumni share, and showcased the many accomplishments of Viking grads. We heard from a higher education colleague recently that her child chose to attend PSU based on the Fearless campaign.
In addition to engaging prospective students, a strong brand can foster a sense of pride and continued connection with alumni and donors and, among other things, contribute to the success of fundraising campaigns. We led Seattle U. (a Jesuit university) through a comprehensive brand strategy process developing a capital campaign theme entitled, “For the Difference We Make.” Through the campaign, the university was able to raise $169 million from over 21,000 unique donors–exceeding its original fundraising goal.
There’s much to be said, too, about the benefit of the brand development process. We often hear from our clients that faculty, staff and students feel reenergized by developing and introducing a new or refreshed brand. It establishes new ambassadors–even evangelists–within the school, and increases ownership among stakeholders brought in for collaboration and input. The development of a meaningful brand essence is also orienting for those working within the school. In developing the essence of “Unexpected” for Whitworth University, for example, we featured the school’s most compelling trait: the unique and surprising juxtapositions that create a life-changing educational experience for its students. The supporting visual language design and messaging framework we developed give Whitworth’s internal teams the tools to express those juxtapositions throughout their communications in ways that are unexpected for a faith-based institution. In this way, the brand process not only focuses on the external target audience, but brings unity and clarity to the internal audiences as well.
As I personally traversed the higher education branding landscape recently with my college-bound daughter, I could see the impact made on her by recruiting programs and materials with authentic messaging, narratives that made an emotional connection, and photography with a strong sense of place. Colleges and universities with a well-defined and well executed brand were better able to differentiate from the large crowd of competing institutions, communicate their unique essence, and attract their best students. At Phinney Bischoff, we value being part of our clients’ brand evolution for just that reason. A great education brand can inspire and motivate, convey potential and promise, and make a true difference at such an important time of people’s lives.
Whitworth photography by Julie Schoening