Utilizing University Branding in Internet Marketing

By February 18, 2014 No Comments

There is no doubting the competitiveness of the higher education field in internet marketing. With factors such as high ROI and strong marketing budgets, many universities spend the time and resources to develop large-scale online marketing strategies. While some online programs are backed by highly respected and well know brands, others may fly under the radar as smaller universities with niche specific audiences.
Whichever it may be, deeply understanding your university brand and utilizing the proper imagery, tone, text, and feel consistently across all marketing efforts can be greatly beneficial to the perception of your brand in the eyes of prospective students, as well as the entire university community.
Understanding Your Brand
In order for a university to utilize their brand across their marketing platforms, they must first deep dive into what exactly their unique brand is. This is a common concept for marketing strategies and can consist of a few pieces, including a brand DNA document. A few important facets of this document are to describe the brand’s underlying message and key attributes, define the target audience for the brand, and establish a fluid voice and style. Some universities choose to ask for outside help when defining the intricacies of their brand DNA, and some tackle this challenge in house, but regardless of the means, this is an essential step in establishing a successful brand image.
When putting the pieces of the puzzle together describing a target audience, universities can look at the data they have on hand through application and current student information. They must consider the age, sex, family status, and location of their students, among other characteristics. A university offering an online masters in education program will have a different audience than even the same university offering an online masters in curriculum and instruction. For this reason, it is necessary to outline the branding for each individual program offered.
What Makes Your Program Different?
A key component to developing a program’s unique brand is understanding the key attributes of the program, defining what sets this program apart from the same program offered at other universities. A few factors may include costs associated, statistics involving student success after graduation, reverence for the particular university brand, or the expertise and dedication of university faculty and staff. Whichever the case may be, the key attributes of a program need to be noted and included consistently throughout marketing strategies.
As Robert described in his previous post, “Landing Page Conversion Formula in Higher Education Part 2: Value Proposition” these key attributes are defined as a brand’s UVP or unique value prop.
Style Guides and Tone
A style guide or style manual is used to establish the exact fonts, colors, formatting, design, and writing style of a brand. While this may differ from program to program, universities should define the exacts of their style to remain consistent throughout their entire website and internet marketing efforts.
Universities should also determine the tone they would like to use in written text. Because of the high level of education and professionalism associated with universities, this tone may shy away from cleverness and sarcasm and be rooted in seriousness and respect.
Brand and Style in Landing Pages
Again, as emphasized in Robert’s previous post, a universities unique value prop, as well as their unique brand image should be clearly visible to a visitor to a landing page. Because universities are paying for visitors landing on these pages, they should have their best foot forward and eager to help smiles across their faces. Visitors should take in the brand’s colors, logos, and fonts, whether consciously or subconsciously, and click through or leave the page with a positive feel leading to brand recognition in the near future. This brand recognition will come in handy with remarketing efforts. Take a look at the branding and imagery on this landing page by the University of Maryland:
What to Avoid when Creating Landing Pages:

  • Unclear branding style across landing pages
  • Undefined target audience, fostering text to the wrong audience
  • Lack of Unique Value Proposition
  • Disregard for brand’s tone by sounding too promotional

Brand and Style in Social Media
Just as a brand should be well established for website content and landing page efforts, it is equally important to continue this strategy in social media campaigns. Whether a university is working with paid advertising in social media or running a traditional social media campaign, tone, style, and imagery should be consistent throughout. While font and color can be difficult factors to display through tweets and posts, a well-designed image with text can be a suitable solution. A poorly put together social media account can directly transfer into negative public relations for the university. Boring or inconsistent posts can leave individuals thinking a university has a lack of interest in keeping their followers informed and involved in their doings. Take a look at the social media branding and messaging in this post by Ohio University:
What to Avoid in Social Media Campaigns

  • Inconsistent publishing schedule
  • Conflicting messaging tones and styles
  • Lack of imagery and color
  • Poorly written posts with spelling and grammatical errors

Brand and Style in Infographics
Infographics are a powerful tool in internet marketing, not only demonstrating the research and expertise of a specific program, but also increasing brand awareness online. These graphics can cover a spread of newsworthy topics relevant to program research and are easily consumable and shareable. While it is terribly important to have complete and accurate research represented, with double checked facts and text, it is also imperative to note the branding of these graphics. Viewers should absorb the information offered as well as the branding styles and imagery.
What to Avoid when Creating Infographics

  • Inconsistent branding imagery and color
  • Boring content shown in uninteresting ways
  • Incorrect research or facts
  • Excessive text that is hard to consume

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