Saturday, February 25, 2012

Colleges, cash in on the Downton Abbey craze

For-profit universities are attracting controversy almost as fast as they are attracting students. Wall Street likes the business: low barriers to entry, high profit margins, and product lines that can scale up. Looming threat: increasing government scrutiny.

But there's no denying the rise of these institutions and the change they are forcing on traditional colleges and universities, which already were recognizing the need to adapt to online learning and the needs of older learners.

So just for fun, what name would your pick for a for-profit university? The Franciscan U of the Prairies became Ashford U.  Beaver College became Arcadia University. Trident University became Trident University International.

For profits aren't alone in changing names, as US News reported back in 2009. (And wait a minute....didn't US News itself have a longer name? Oh, yeah.

It's clear that for profit institutions want a name that conveys a strong brand, rootedness, quality, good experience. Harvard is taken, though Harvard itself had no name till a donor by that name left money.  Duke went through several names before accepting a tobacco fortune.

So I'm thinking of a name that conveys lively people, a gorgeous campus, well-dressed leaders,  upwardly-mobile boarders, cool clothes, a nearby pub, a great library, a regal dining hall and, one must have, fox hunting. For differentiation, you need the unique quality of full pursuit of the uneatable. I'm calling it Downtown Abbey University.

The name says urban and rural, plus people find the campus life irresistible to watch.

Very good, m'Lord.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Integrated marketing in higher education: Nice work at Portland State University

I had a chance recently to hear people at Portland State University talk about what they are doing in social media as part of their overall brand marketing. I was impressed.

At the gathering of District 8 of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, PSU and others are recognizing that universities face great challenges: greater competition for students, faculty, research dollars and donor support. If you factor in the rise of for-profit universities, online learning and a new thinking in how state and federal governments relate to higher ed -- it's a new world. All the more reason to work harder to differentiate your institution and better tell you story. Success means a strong institutional commitment, a well considered plan and measures, execution by people with authority, message discipline and a relentless focus on evaluation and re-assessment. Oh, and some resources. If you don't invest in this effort, you can be certain of falling behind competitors who are making smart investments.

Here's a link to PSU's marketing page. And check out their photo contest.

The people of PSU said one of their foundations for their marketing was a video that sought to capture the essence of their university. Doing such a video is ambitious and risky. So many institutions are doing these -- so how do you re-invent the messages of academic excellence, the student experience and transformation that awaits those for whom your school is a great fit? What visual "vocabulary" and style do you use?  Here's what PSU did. One noticeable element: they embraced the character and beauty of Portland. What do you think?