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Where Do Universities Go Wrong?

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).

Follow me on twitter: @eimantask

Sources: UCLA, Asbury, UM, TrentU, UT, NIA, Entrepreneur