I love branding, and not because I’m from Nebraska, the state where brand involves cattle, Warren Buffet, and status in the United States as something to fly over or drive through.
Higher ed brand work allows for some creativity, though not as much as we’d all like (Colleges are terribly risk-averse entities, so serious that thinking out-of-the-box tends to mean a bolder font, fewer words, or some combination thereof.). I had a client once who wanted to pump up the backpack color in the photos to more trendy options. Whoa.
I just reached 25 years at Stamats. “Brand” was a no-no through nearly the first half of that tenure, and now 80% of our work starts with an RFP or engagement under the banner of brand. Yoo-hoo.
With this permission to act, I offer these truths:
- Stop worrying about the minutiae of tactical collateral. Fonts and colors mean something, and wanting items that look, feel, or sound alike is important. But if you don’t have the true brand substance right—and many, many of you don’t—a suite of color-coordinated marketing materials may appear like a “family” but in reality reflect a well-appointed yet non-relevant brand. Do research. Figure out how you are relevant.
- Invigorate internally first. Colleges ache to get to the tell-the-world tactical executions, pontificating their deeply held education beliefs in prose and bluster. But if the internal audience (including alumni) doesn’t agree or support your externally directed messages, watch how your better promotion leads to even more people find out how dysfunctional you are.
- Actions are brand, so why do we so often overlook them? Advertisements and print, fonts and BIG WORDS get the lion’s share of attention. Give me brand-minded behavior any time, since that is more likely to make an impression than all the “stuff” you can create and dispense to a busy audience.
To this end, take a few moments to consider what you can do to address these three items. Do you have the research needed to inform all else (and that differentiates you in meaningful ways)? What have you done/should you do to inform and engage internally, even if it means backtracking a little?
What actions can you implement that will mean something to the brand?
Too often, colleges circle around well-intentioned themes of “value,” “preparation,” and “experience.” All important, but all articulated by nearly all institutions. Too many miss the chance to impact with simple actions and deeds with purpose.
Addressing this issue is an action that alone says something about you as a brand, oh reader.