Brand Positioning Strategies for Successful Higher Education Marketing

By: Sarah Russell Jun 15, 2023

Brand Positioning Strategies for Successful Higher Education Marketing

Effective Higher Ed Brand Management Requires Consistency, Authenticity, Differentiation, and a Focus on Students.

Building and managing a strong brand for your college or university is a critical piece of your schools enrollment growth strategy. Effective brands for colleges and universities are authentic, consistently communicated, memorable, and differentiated from competitors. But, what makes a strong brand strategy for higher education? In an increasingly online world, your brand positioning starts with your digital presence across multiple platforms from your website to a variety of social media platforms. Ready to improve your brand awareness and grow your enrollments? Here are 12 ways your institution can strengthen its brand and enroll more students:

1. Make Your Brand About Your Students

Putting your students at the heart of your brand marketing strategy is the key to a successful brand position. This approach will not only resonate with your target audience but also fosters a strong sense of community and connection. Incorporate these strategies to make it about your students:

  • Conduct surveys, interviews, and data analysis to gather insights into their needs, aspirations, and values.
  • Develop and promote student-centric programs and services that cater to their specific needs. Whether it’s academic support, career counseling, mental health services, or extracurricular activities.
  • Craft taglines and slogans that emphasize your institution’s commitment to your students. Make it concise, memorable, and emotionally resonant.

Our latest Online College Students Report, curated for higher education professionals, can provide insights on the latest trends of today’s students to help guide your institution’s overall marketing efforts.

2. Use the Website as the Hub of Your University’s Brand

In today’s digital age, a university’s website is often the first point of contact for prospective students, alumni, and other stakeholders. It serves as the digital face of your institution. It’s where your institution’s identity, values, and offerings converge to create a compelling online presence. Your website is a vital element of your brand position strategy.

Here are a few methods your institution should regularly incorporate to get the most out of your website:

  • Consistent Visual Branding: Consistency in design reinforces your brand’s identity and recognition.
  • User-Centric Design: Prioritizing user experience (UX) in your website design ensures that navigation is intuitive and information is easily accessible. Responsive design is critical to accommodate your students on various devices.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Using relevant keywords, optimizing meta tags, curating high-quality content, and improving site speed ensures that your university’s website ranks high on the search engine results pages. By doing so, your university can attract prospective students actively searching for educational opportunities.
  • Analyze and Optimize: Leveraging analytics tools like Google Analytics to monitor user behavior on your website can help your marketers understand what works and what needs improvement. Continuously optimizing your university website can enhance user engagement and improve conversion rates.

Download our recent SEO Playbook to learn what factors most impact your organic rankings, quick wins for improving your SEO performance, and most important mistakes to avoid.

3. Building Messaging That Strengthens Brand Loyalty

Creating a strong bond between students and the institution is crucial for fostering brand loyalty. Your institution’s messaging plays a pivotal role in shaping how your higher education institution is perceived by current and prospective students. To strengthen brand loyalty, it is essential to craft messaging that resonates with your target audience and reinforces the unique value your institution offers. This involves crafting a compelling narrative about the institution’s values, its mission, the campus community, and the opportunities it provides.

Consider these strategies to help you build messaging that strengthens brand loyalty:

  • Highlight your unique selling proposition: Whether it’s a renowned faculty member, state-of-the-art facilities, a vibrant campus culture, or a commitment to community engagement, your USP should shine through in every message.
  • Tell Compelling Stories: Use storytelling to humanize your institution and create emotional connections with students. Stories have the power to inspire and create a sense of belonging, which in turn fosters brand loyalty.
  • Align with Your Brand’s Core Values: Ensure that all your communications, whether in print, online, or in person, align with your institution’s core values and mission. This consistency reinforces your brand identity.
  • Embrace Diversity and Inclusion: Ensure your messaging reflects your institution’s commitment to fostering an inclusive environment. Showcase initiatives, programs, images, and partnerships that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In addition, leveraging social media channels to engage with current and prospective students allows institutions to build and reinforce a brand personality and identity that can strengthen student relationships.

Think of it as an ongoing conversation where regular communication, transparency, and acknowledgment of student achievements are crucial. These elements weave a tapestry of loyalty that unites the institution and its students.

4. Ensure Consistent Brand Messaging Across Marketing Channels

One of the challenges with higher education institutions that may comprise of multiple colleges and multiple campuses is having consistent messaging across your website, paid media, and other content. This goes beyond the initial marketing. It also includes content and messaging that touches students throughout the student journey from Application to Graduation. Consistency not only establishes a strong brand identity but also plays a pivotal role in influencing enrollment. When messaging aligns seamlessly from social media posts to email marketing campaigns, landing pages to digital ads, it creates a cohesive and compelling narrative that captures the essence of your institution and builds trust and credibility among students.

Consistency begins with your marketing team. Ensure that everyone in your team understands and adheres to the brand guidelines. To accomplish this, conduct regular training sessions about your brand to familiarize them with your institution’s brand and provide examples of correct brand implementation.

In addition, understand that consistency is an ongoing process. To minimize the risk of inconsistency or contradictory messages over time, establish a well-defined content approval process that ensures your brand messaging remains consistent.

Prospective students often engage with multiple marketing channels before making their final decision, which makes it more important than ever to ensure that every touchpoint with prospective students conveys a uniform and consistent brand message.

5. Deliver Branded and Personalized Content Marketing

Personalization has become a massive focus in marketing. In higher education, it is no exception. Students have grown up in an era of personalized experiences and expect no less from their institutions. They expect everything to be tailored to their needs, interests, and future career goals.

By using personalized content marketing, institutions can create a one-to-one experience that genuinely resonates with prospective students.

Here are some personalized content marketing strategies commonly used today:

  • Email Marketing Campaigns: Send personalized emails based on a prospective student’s interests, program of study, location, and stage in the enrollment process.
  • Consumables: Provide valuable and personalized content through blog posts, whitepapers, and ebooks to nurture prospective students over time, helping them make informed decisions about their education.
  • Customized Landing Pages: Design landing pages that cater to different segments of their audience.
  • Interactive Content: Interactive tools, such as quizzes or calculators, help prospective students determine their best-fit programs or estimate the cost of attendance. These tools provide personalized recommendations based on user input.
  • Virtual Campus Tours: Offer personalized virtual campus tours that allow prospective students to explore campus facilities, academic departments, and student life areas that align with their interests and intended major.
  • Segmented Social Media Marketing: Segment your social media audiences and deliver targeted content to different groups. This can include posts about specific programs, student achievements, campus events, and more

By embracing these personalized content marketing strategies, institutions can effectively convey their brand identity while nurturing meaningful connections with prospective students during the student recruitment journey.

6. Tell Your Student and School Success Stories

Success stories serve as a bridge between your institution’s value and the meaningful impact it has on prospective students. These narratives highlight your school’s unique strengths and achievements, showcasing the real-world benefits of your educational programs and the transformative journeys of your students.

The true worth of your college or university’s brand is measured by the stories of those most positively impacted by their interaction with you. Leveraging success stories in your marketing strategies is a cost-effective way to reinforce your brand’s promise.

Effective public relations efforts are also paramount to building a strong brand for your school. Don’t be shy about sharing your school’s successes and recognitions, but within your local marketplace and beyond. Well placed press releases that focus on telling strong success stories are an effective method of sharing your brand story and increasing awareness of your school.

By empowering your students and alumni to share their stories, you’re giving your brand the most powerful voice of all.

7. Use Brand Ambassadors to Show the Real Student Experience

Students and alums make the best brand ambassadors as they can share authentic experiences and help prospective students connect with the school on a personal level. This kind of connection is invaluable when building a community that is key to helping students decide where they want to devote the next few years of their lives. Brand ambassadors can help bring your higher education institution’s brand to life. They provide a genuine, unfiltered perspective on campus life, academic opportunities, and the overall student experience. Their relatable narratives resonate with potential students on a personal level, helping them envision themselves as part of your academic community.

Consider leveraging brand ambassadors to create engaging content such as:

  • Social media takeovers
  • Blog posts
  • Short-form videos
  • Live events

Brand ambassadors showcase the behind-the-scenes authentic student experience. This authenticity is invaluable in a landscape where trust and credibility are paramount. As a result, leveraging brand ambassadors not only enhances your institution’s brand appeal but can also positively influence student enrollment, ultimately driving the success of your higher education marketing efforts.

8. Host Live Information Webinars About Your Academic Programs

Webinars serve as a dynamic platform that you can use to establish direct connections with new students. These interactive sessions can delve into a wide range of subjects, such as course details, the admissions procedure, and insights into campus life. The inclusion of a live Q&A segment empowers participants to get immediate responses to their questions, enhancing the overall experience and providing valuable information.

Here are some key topics to explore during prospective student information webinars:

  • Admissions and Enrollment: Everything the student needs to know about the application process, admission requirements, and important deadlines.
  • Online Course Format: Gain insights into the structure and format of the online courses, ensuring they have a clear understanding of the virtual learning experience.
  • Technology Requirements: Discover the technology and equipment you’ll need to succeed in your online academic journey, including software, hardware, and internet connectivity.
  • Faculty and Student Interaction: Understand how the institution fosters a collaborative and engaging learning environment, emphasizing the importance of faculty-student interactions. You may also invite brand ambassador/influencer alumni to these sessions.

9. Leverage Student Testimonials to Tell Your Brand Story

Student testimonials are a potent tool for colleges and universities to communicate their brand story effectively. They bring authenticity, relatability, and emotional resonance to the marketing efforts, helping institutions connect with prospective students personally and showcase the transformative power of their education and campus life.

To make the most of testimonials, consider these best practices:

  • Highlight Diversity: Feature a diverse range of student testimonials representing various backgrounds, academic programs, and experiences to foster inclusivity.
  • Maintain Authenticity: Ensure that your success stories are authentic and genuine, avoiding over-editing or scripting.
  • Distribute Testimonials Across Various Channels: Share testimonials on your website, social media, brochures, and in email marketing campaigns to reach a wide audience.
  • Adopt a Storytelling Approach: Craft testimonials in a storytelling format, providing context for each to help viewers understand their relevance.
  • Engage Alumni: Encourage alumni to share their success stories and experiences, as they can provide valuable insights into the long-term benefits of education at your institution.
  • Address Challenges: Occasionally, share testimonials acknowledging challenges or setbacks students faced, highlighting how the institution’s support helped them during their academic journey.

10. Use Chatbots to Improve the Student Experience on Your Website

Incorporating AI into student recruitment is a game-changer for brand new students and the entire university community. By harnessing the power of AI, universities can effectively engage their target audience of prospective students more efficiently and in a format that appeals to prospective students.

AI technology allows universities to create a personalized and seamless experience on your website through chatbots and virtual assistants. It enables institutions to tailor their recruitment strategies to better resonate with their target audience, ensuring that the university brand aligns perfectly with the aspirations of incoming students.

For new students, this means a smoother and more intuitive application process. AI-driven chatbots can provide immediate answers to common questions, guiding these potential scholars every step of the way. This not only saves time but also ensures that the university’s brand is associated with efficiency and accessibility.

In the competitive landscape of student recruitment, universities that leverage AI effectively can establish themselves as forward-thinking institutions, attracting more brand-new students and solidifying their reputation as leaders in education.

11. Align Your Brand Story with the Actual Student Experience

When a college or university really commits to matching the student experience with its brand, it fosters trust and authenticity, extending beyond traditional marketing efforts, leaving a lasting impact on your students, alumni, and community.

Delivering a positive brand experience is central to building trust and confidence among prospective students and the larger community. In an era of abundant information and choices, students turn to the brands they trust. When the student experience matches the brand promise, it cultivates a harmonious relationship between the institution and its students. This alignment boosts retention and student satisfaction, vital for long-term success, assuring prospective students of the promised educational experience.

12. Use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Power Your Digital Marketing Strategies for Higher Education

Artificial intelligence is transforming how we execute marketing, and its implications in higher education are not to be overlooked. As mentioned above, AI can power a better online experience through chatbots and virtual assistants. AI can also be utilized to optimize various aspects of digital marketing campaigns such as Google Paid Search, Google Display, Microsoft Paid Search, Meta (formally known as Facebook), and X (formally known as Twitter).

One of the most exciting aspects of this AI-driven marketing revolution is how higher education institutions can fine-tune their messaging to resonate with different prospective student audiences. By leveraging the power of AI, colleges and universities can now analyze and understand which messages perform the best and tailor communication accordingly.

Effective Brand Management Requires Constant Monitoring of Your Brand Position

Creating an effective brand strategy is not a set-it and forget-it proposition. Effective brand strategies require constant monitoring of your brand performance and ongoing optimization. That means monitoring brand mentions in the media and on social media as well as effectively using analytics tools like Google Analytics 4 to consistently monitor your website’s performance. Student reviews matter for your brand and are also a valuable indicator of your school’s effectiveness in delivering on your brand promise and executing your brand strategy.

Brand health metrics that effectively measure your brand’s performance include website visits, new student inquiries and application submissions, media mentions, social media engagement, student reviews. By continuously analyzing this data, colleges and universities can make informed decisions and tweak their strategies for better results.

Get started on developing and executing a strong brand positioning strategy for your higher education institution

Effective brand positioning is vital for higher education institutions in today’s competitive landscape. By embracing innovative strategies and consistently monitoring your progress, universities and colleges can create a strong brand identity that resonates with prospective students, leading to successful marketing strategies.

EducationDynamics is Here to Help School Build Better Brand Marketing Strategies

EducationDynamics is passionate about helping colleges and universities build and execute comprehensive full-funnel marketing strategies that lead to a strong brand position. In an increasingly competitive student enrollment landscape, colleges and universities with a strong brand positioning strategy have a strong website presence, impactful digital marketing campaigns, and a student-centered experience. Reach out to the EDDY team today to learn how the experts at EducationDynamics can help your college or university grow your enrollments.