Higher Ed Branding is More Important than Ever… But What is it and What can it do for an Institution

Higher Ed Branding is More Important than Ever…
But What is it and What can it do for an Institution


There’re some big games playing out on college campuses across the country right now. But it has nothing to do with March Madness. Instead, it’s a high stakes battle for talent – from applicants to professors to leadership – and it has never been fiercer in higher education. Institutions are locked in a heated competition, vying for students in their backyards, across the country – even across continents. And it makes college basketball’s annual insanity look downright ordinary.


Gone are the days of the no-brainer, saw that coming process – where bookworms flocked to traditional universities, pragmatists sought polytechnics, and others stayed local. Today’s student is a savvy information warrior, wielding tools like global rankings, employment data, TikTok, and third-party websites to compare everything from international support to campus nightlife. And they’re not just compiling data; they’re curating experiences.


In this information overload, one thing stands out: a clear and compelling brand. A compelling story that relies on more than mere facts and figures. It paints a picture, writes a song, weaves a magical narrative that can’t be ignored. A memorable and authentic tale that resonates with our ideal student and whispers … “This is where you belong.”


For more than a few semesters now, we’ve been helping brands develop, enhance and craft their stories. We’ve done it across categories, but particularly in higher education – where our work has helped to support various key objectives, from altering perceptions to elevating rankings. What we’ve learned along the way, and helped guide our clients through, is the following:


Student Choice:

Modern students are empowered. They research, compare, and dissect every detail before making a decision. And it’s not just what you’re putting out – but what others are conveying for you. Your brand needs to be clear, concise, and consistent across all platforms, from your website to social media. It should speak to their values, aspirations, and concerns, making them feel seen and understood. And capture the spirit of who you are.


Shifting Landscape:

Technology is transforming education at breakneck speed. Online learning, virtual tours, and gamified experiences are blurring the lines between traditional and non-traditional institutions. Your brand needs to be dynamic and adaptable, embracing new technologies while staying true to your core values. How well does your narrative capture your place in this landscape?


Building Trust:

With endless information at their fingertips, students crave authenticity and transparency. Your brand should be a trustworthy reflection of your institution, showcasing your strengths, addressing challenges head-on, and fostering a sense of community. In a voice that’s uniquely your own.


Attracting Talent:

Branding isn’t just about students; it’s about faculty and staff, as well. A strong brand helps to attract and retain top talent who share your mission and values. It creates a vibrant and engaging environment where everyone feels invested in the story you’re telling.


Boosting Rankings:

Let’s be honest, rankings matter. In reality, more than they should. Branding isn’t a shortcut to an increase, but the foundation that positions your institution for success. A strong brand narrative resonates with ranking agencies, highlighting your unique offerings and impact, leading to a natural rise in visibility and recognition.


All of this contributes to improved reputation, increased enrollment, improved reputation, enhanced fundraising and resource allocation, and improved alumni relations.


But how do you get there? How do you craft, or re-craft a story that truly connects in today’s environment, with your unique audiences, and in the ways that reach and engage them?


1. Find Your Story:

What makes your college unique? What sets you apart from the crowd? Delve into your history, your values, and the impact you have on students. Uncover the stories that resonate and weave them into the fabric of your brand.


2. Be Authentic:

Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Students can smell inauthenticity a mile away. Be genuine, transparent, and passionate about your mission. Let your brand reflect your true essence.


3. Be Consistent:

Your brand isn’t just a logo; it’s a living, breathing entity. Ensure consistency across all platforms, from your website to social media to printed materials. Every touchpoint should reinforce your brand story.


4. Be Engaging:

Don’t just tell your story; invite students to be part of it. More dialogue, less monologue. Use storytelling, interactive content, and social media to create a conversation and build a community around your brand.


5. Partner with Experts:

Branding is a complex journey. Don’t go it alone. Partner with those who understand the nuances of higher education and has a proven track record of success.


While the battle for talent likely won’t get any less intense, knowing who you are, and having the confidence you are sharing that truth in a memorable way can help. Yes, there’s an abundance of choice, as well as an increasing paradox of choice. Clarifying your brand helps to ensure that you’re attractive to, and connecting with the right audiences. All of which can lead you to cutting down the nets when the madness subsides.

See our work.

Partner with us.

See our work.

Partner with us.