branding colleges

Just came across this op-ed article on the trend of colleges starting to build themselves as a brand and think of their incoming students and prospects as customers.

It feels like this new generation of college customers is going to stir up the brands of universities enough so that traditions begin to splinter, and all that we're left with is a buffet of schools differentiating from the pack by offering a lower tuition or a higher ROI for their customer, i.e. higher-paying jobs after graduation.

Certain things schools are doing - updating old gyms or providing cafes for students - are great, but the line has to fall somewhere. Who can really say what he/she wants at 18? A check-plus/check-minus/etc. grading scale is what I would have wanted at that age, but that would not have worked out well in the long run...


At 8:22 PM , Anonymous Jason Peck said...

More so than ever, I think a lot of people now can say what they want in a university. Good cafeterias, high-tech gyms and a great bus system are just a few of the bigger things that people look at. Smaller things include wi-fi anywhere, unlimited printing, personal web space...the list goes on.

When I was visiting colleges 4+ years ago, they definitely used the cafeterias as selling points. Each school always pointed out their own advantages (ex: waffle makers, 10 kinds of salad dressings, etc) that appeal to all the different types of food consumers. There's the super healthy people who know they want some kind of organic food in the cafeteria, people who want a good steak, people who love breakfast...again the list goes on.

Also, I think that a lot of incoming freshman are definitely more concerned with picking a major that will help them get a job. I'm fortunate enough to have been a journalism/advertising major and was able to attend classes and learn things that will directly help me in my future job. However I've heard a lot of talk from others who graduated/are graduating now about how they wished they had been a business major or something rather than being a psych or soci major and have a tough time getting a job after graduation (at least if you want a job in those fields, you have to go to grad school). Thus, school x saying that their students get higher paying jobs than school y is definitely a selling point, like you said. I probably wouldn't have given this much thought back when I started, but I'm pretty sure a lot of students today do. I think there's still a place for colleges to brand themselves as academic/ life experiences, not just factories geared at getting jobs and spouting out job numbers, but sadly this seems to be shrinking.

At 12:41 AM , Blogger David Wen said...

The University of Texas has been branding itself too.

GSD&M and the Texas Creative program collaborated.


At 3:54 PM , Blogger joshcarlton said...

Jason- great thoughts there. I remember the cafeterias as a strong selling point ("voted the 8th best food in the country" or something like that) a few years back, but I just worry when things like that take the spotlight away from other more important stuff, like how many teachers have PhDs, etc... Competing with amenities like the best gym, best food, or highest paying jobs after schooling takes universities down the long and dull road of commoditization.

David- I love the UT campaign, thx for sending. The spots take all that is good about the University and Austin and puts it together in such a compelling way.


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