With our daughter a rising high school senior (when exactly did that expression become so popular?), our family is deep into college consideration. Having been through this with our son four years ago we have a little experience. But like everything else this is going to be different.
We took a trip this week to visit two more universities – two large public institutions – our daughter wants the whole college experience complete with big time athletics (to attend not to play), academic programs and diversity in the student body, and of course a vibrant social life.
The seemingly endless amount of college rating books offer a fun and interesting read. But I came to realize that the marketing of those colleges only begins with those books. Should a student show interest (and even if they don’t) the never-ending parade of literature sent via the USPS (it may be keeping the USPS in business – at least for now) is truly impressive.
Colleges and universities have definitive brand identities. And yet the marketing of these institutions displays the very essence of direct marketing. What could be a more personal and one-to-one decision than deciding where to spend 4 years (or 5 or 6 as it is these days) of one’s life. Not to mention as much as $ 200,000 at the top end for those that can afford it!
Statistics offered by colleges and universities play a big role. SAT/ACT scores, GPA, % of incoming freshman accepted vs. total applications, – this creates cachet and excitement, as well as angst and heartache. Our daughter now has her heart set on a school that might be considered a reach – she claims she will be mortified if she does not get in. The performance of athletic teams, as well as top line artists coming to perform at the school creates buzz and excitement – all adding to its brand identity.
The experience of visiting the school, taking the tour and experiencing the campus is invigorating and always makes me (and my wife) wish we could go back to those carefree days of college (which somehow did not seem so carefree when we were there). Like my Dad still says – ‘education is often wasted on the young’.
Years after graduation the alumni are encouraged to remain a part of the family (and donate a building if you can please – or whatever you can) and thus the brand relationship continues. Word of mouth marketing comes into play aiding the brand positioning with alumni waxing poetically about their days on campus and all the great things that were experienced.
How often do you reminisce about those college days? Are you helping advance your alma mater’s brand?