What do consumers do when they are going through the purchase decision? They gather information. But, do they gather information for all the options? Most likely the answer is no, they do not.
Consumers tend to stick to certain brands they trust. This is very important for not only organizations, people and businesses to understand.
Lets take a theoretical situation where John is looking for a surround sound system. After getting off of work on Friday, John stops at a gas station to fill up his car. While he is standing at the gas pump, day dreaming about his choices for which sound system he would like to buy this weekend, a person walks up to him asking him if he would like to buy a surround sound system for $150 (a friend of mine was approached and given this price). When I bought a BOSE surround sound system, I paid upwards of $800 for it. If you were John would you pay cash for a surround sound system sold on the street. In most cases no you wouldn’t, because you have no trust in the person selling it, and you would also have to trust that it actually works.
Lets look at another example, this one taken from “The Brand Gap”, written by Marty Neumeier, a book I read a few years ago. Looking back, before the Revolutionary War of the United States, when there was also paper currency. But right after the Revolutionary War paper money became much less valuable than previous to the war. Silver and Gold became currencies that people of that time could trust. Since then, it took close to a few hundred years in order for citizens to accept Silver Certificates as a substitute, even though they were still backed by metal reserves. Further, it wasn’t until a hundred years later that we were willing to accept Federal Reserve Notes, which aren’t even backed by metals but instead by the brand of America. Quickly afterwards in the book Neumeier writes “Will we soon be ready to accept international cyber-currency as an improvement on credit cards? Sure, if we can trust it.” (This book was written almost ten years ago)
Nearly ten years later we are seeing just that, the acceptance of a cyber-currency named ‘Bitcoin’. Why are some companies from all over the world taking it as a form of payment, why is an individual selling his house in the Hampton’s for Bitcoins? The answer is simple, we are beginning to trust it.
Much like trusting a person, or a form of currency when we make purchase decisions we are engaging in trust, whether it be the brand of a product, or a brand of the distributor. Nevertheless we are Trusting The Brand. We trust the brand because of previous experiences, word-of-mouth, or the fact that the brand has been around for many years. There are many reason why we trust certain brands, but this trust from consumers is very important.
How do you get consumers to trust you? How do you get a person to trust you? Through time and actions can a perception of trust come about.
In the last few months I was working with my university to create a branding strategy. After extensive research, I concluded that the university I was attending was not the only one with marketing problems but there are many universities across the nation struggling in positioning themselves. The definition of positioning is how you differentiate your product or service from that of your competitors and then determine which market niche to fill (entrepreneur).
From the below examples you can see that educational institutions do not differentiate themselves from one another, furthermore they don’t even differentiate themselves from the industry they are in. The core mission attributes from some universities are as follows:
- University of California, Los Angeles: Education, Research, Service
- Pepperdine University: Purpose, Service, Leadership
- Chapman University: Leadership, Innovation, Creativity
These universities listed are world-class, but fail to differentiate themselves. For example, any university can say that they provide an education, offer a service, or focus on leadership. These universities do not provide positioning statements. One reason is that they are well established and do not feel the need to position themselves in consumers minds. I believe that this is a huge mistake that even these top universities in Southern California make. Higher education is becoming more and more expensive for future students as time goes by, thus these institutions aren’t fighting for prospective students today, but they will definitely be fighting harder for students in the future.
Some smaller universities with much less prestige have come up with positioning statements and have positioned themselves. They are the institutions that need to fight harder for students today. Some examples of their positioning statements are as follows:
- University of Memphis: Dreamers, Thinkers, Doers
- University of Texas, Austin: Lead, Engage, Innovate, Impact
- Northern Illinois University: Research, Service, Experience(Student-Centered)
Canadian University examples:
- Trent University: Personal, Purposeful, Transformative
- Asbury University: Committed, Engaging, Supportive
Still, these universities, with the exception of a few do not differentiate themselves from other universities.
The leaders of universities today have to be made aware of the growing importance of marketing in terms of branding themselves and positioning themselves properly. They are becoming businesses and must start acting as such, because students are beginning to see them as commodities in today’s world. The increasing cost of going to a university is growing at an unprecedented rate, thus future students are no longer willing to go to certain universities only for tradition, and culture. Universities need to start positioning themselves much like the University of Memphis. Universities need to make their institution an attractive place to go, especially once students are beginning to do cost-benefit analysis. As consumers, they want to know what is in it for them, what they will get in return for going to your university, and how their choice will affect their chances at getting a job once they graduate(especially in our current economy).
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