23. January, 2016|Blog|Comments Off on Brand Divide: Bridging the Gap Between Faculty and Marketing


Historically, universities have been “a house divided” when the topics of marketing and branding are discussed.

This challenge became highly visible last week when the University of Oregon’s president, after a strong reaction by the faculty, canceled the remainder of a $20 million contract to market the university. The initial Nike-esque ad based on the theme “If” was called “too generic” and “inane and insulting” by faculty leaders, but others praised the fast-paced, enrollment-focused video.

In canceling the contract, university administrators said the same marketing work could be easily handled in-house if they could just overcome silos and share resources. Faculty leaders were thrilled with the decision because they said the university’s leaders could now focus on “addressing the university’s real problems.”

This delicate, politically charged situation highlights some key issues universities must address to successfully engage the entire campus – including the faculty – in building a stronger brand and marketing the campus effectively.

Start with the brand. Every institution has a brand – good or bad, strong or weak. Think Harvard… University of Texas… Florida State… Notre Dame… UC-Berkeley. Each school brings to mind a different set of images, words and feelings – or perhaps, none at all. The brand can be damaged by scandal, built up by success – and strengthened over time.

But first of all, it must be understood across the institution. Ask the board, donors, faculty, staff, alumni, students and the community, “What are we known for? How do people see us? Why do they feel that way?”

An institution’s brand impacts everything, from the ability to garner research funding and philanthropic contributions to student enrollment, awards and honors, and faculty recruiting. This grounding in the reality of the current brand can help everyone gain a sense of urgency about working together to strengthen it.

Engage thought leaders and influencers. A university’s marketing efforts will ultimately fail if handled by the marketing team alone. Invite two or three influential, engaging faculty members to join a cross-functional marketing team that includes reps from athletics, the campus store, alumni relations, special centers, etc. This group becomes the sounding board, the advisors and the advocates for the brand and for marketing. Select team members based on their ability to collaborate, connect, listen and contribute rather than for their official titles.

Explain the realities. Faculty members are often distant from the operational realities of running a university or trying to recruit students. Transparently discussing how much marketing impacts the number of students who show up for classes or the impact of marketing on donations can help faculty connect the dots – and help them feel more positive (in those agonizing budget meetings) about voting to increase marketing support over adding technology or other important items on their own departmental wish list.

Invest in programmatic distinctives. A brand is strengthened when a university becomes known for a few things it does well, and a rising tide lifts all ships. Engage faculty to determine which programs offer distinctive quality, and invest in making good programs great. Build the brand from the inside out – then invest time, energy and resources to ensure prospective students, donors and the community know about these distinguished programs.

Build an integrated marketing strategy. An exceptional marketing campaign fires on all cylinders at once. Bring brand messaging to life through distinctive programs, faculty engagement, consistent communication, events, guest speakers, campus signage, alumni networks, social media, websites, publications…. Effective marketing requires investment of financial resources, but perhaps more importantly, it requires a coordinated, disciplined program that builds on the real strengths of the institution.

Share success stories. When marketing works well – and it results in a bump in reputation rankings, a large donation or a boost in enrollment for a particular program – share that good news far and wide on the campus. These success stories (preferably shared by happy faculty members) can go a long way toward maintaining institutional support for campus marketing efforts.

Next week: University branding part 2 – Building an integrated marketing program




Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner