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Rebranding 101: 5 Tips for Higher Ed

With more than 4,500 higher education institutions in the United States, a distinctive brand campaign has become a necessity for colleges and universities looking to stand out from the competition. In a category cluttered with ads depicting happy students on scenic campuses, it might be time to consider a rebrand that will strongly differentiate your institution from the competition, communicate your institution’s unique strengths and last for years to come.

Not sure where to get started? We’ve outlined five quick tips to follow when rebranding your higher education institution.

  1. Define institution goals. Specific institutional goals will undoubtedly change from year-to-year but overarching goals of the rebrand — such as awareness, increased enrollment and fundraising growth — should be defined upfront. By defining goals, you’ll ensure the new campaign is developed for execution in all channels and across all audiences and can be evaluated for success down the line.
  1. Gain new insight. To garner a full understanding of your institution’s current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, quantitative and qualitative research should be conducted among internal and external stakeholders, influencers, and current and prospective students. A thorough analysis of your immediate competition will also yield valuable insight on what differentiates you.
  1. Consider an evolution. Evaluate your current brand campaign against the insight gained from research and the competitive analysis — determine if the campaign has strengths that should be carried into the rebrand to forge consistency from the past to the future.
  1. Be bold. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries in a category cluttered with similar creative strategies. Find a balance between your institution’s valuable brand identity — and a distinctive, bold campaign that sets you apart.
  1. Develop an execution plan. When you’re ready to launch the new campaign, ensure a comprehensive plan is put in place to rollout the campaign externally — and internally. Consistency is key; your new brand should be reflected in every touchpoint to ensure it yields the greatest return for years to come.

Rebranding your institution will not be a quick process and should not be rushed. At the onset, estimate 12 to 18 months from start to finish and make sure to involve institution stakeholders throughout to gain buy in as you go. Remember to keep your eye on the end goal: a distinctive brand campaign that uniquely communicates to your audiences to achieve your institutional goals.

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