How to Develop Branding Campaigns that Don’t Stop at Conversion

Becky Morehouse

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In branding campaigns, we often come across two central challenges after determining what should be considered an effective conversion:

  1. Navigating audience perceptions of the institution
  2. Effectively conveying the full brand and not just the marketing message

Brand campaigns are rooted in striving to achieve the goal of not just talking about the brand but actually living it. These issues clog up the works and often halt the campaign after conversion instead of keeping the audience engaged long term. When done right, a branding campaign should full circle, evolving into an evergreen “way of life” for faculty, staff, and students long after the point of conversion. Consider these three strategies to help extend the life of your next branding endeavor.

1. Navigate Audience Perceptions

Not all audiences have the same understanding of who your institution is and what you are about. A three-tiered messaging approach can help ease into a new or competitive market to introduce, familiarize, and guide key audiences to action. 1. Introduce If you are venturing into a new geographic market or want to reach an audience that has little knowledge of you, first-tier messaging should focus on generating awareness. You want prospective students and their parents to think of your institution and include you on their list of college options. 2. Familiarize As an audience becomes more familiar with you, shift to tier-two messaging. This step is focused on core attributes. At this stage, you want them to think certain things about you in an audience-centric way. This is a “what’s-in-it-for-me” messaging approach in which you can highlight your institution’s differentiators as a benefit to students.

What do students want from your social media campaigns? Find out.

For example, does your recently remodeled computer lab offer the latest and greatest tech? Does your cafeteria offer vegan options or safe choices for students who need gluten-free food? 3. Guide Tier-three messaging is more about conversion. The audience knows you and is engaged, and now is the time to direct prospective students to apply, inquire, or perform another key task that aligns with their journey and your goals. This takes you to the point of conversion. But what comes next? When we help colleges develop brand strategies and campaigns, we discuss how the brand will be brought to life on and off campus. Students won’t just engage with the brand—they’ll live it if they feel immersed in and empowered by your college or university. Conveying the full brand beyond the planned messaging will keep your campaign promises evergreen. Thinking about branding from that approach makes it crucial to consider every step of the strategy past the initial launch and communication.

2. Convey the Full Brand

While it’s easy to tell people about your institution, messaging is just the first step. Focusing predominately on messaging and overlooking full implementation can create a brand gap–a disconnect between what you’ve was promised and what the audience ultimately gets. Effective campaigns deliver a lived brand experience. For example, a college might not consider the need for additional staff to monitor social media, email, and phones when running a branding campaign. Or a university might not plan for remarketing or other nurturing programs for students who don’t apply on their first (or second or third) website visit.

[Read also: They’re Not ‘Your’ Students: A New View of the College Education Lifecycle]

These interactions set the stage for your audiences’ ongoing perceptions of your institution. They way they’re treated will resonate long after the wittiness or attraction to your initial campaign wanes. These experiences will lead students to become your institution’s “word of mouth,” relating their experiences to friends, family, social networks, and as community advocates for your organization. Current student and alumni relationship-building is key to increase referrals and enrollment over time.

3. Branding Campaigns Should Come Full Circle

Each stage of a branding campaign requires clear, cohesive, easy-to-navigate conversion points and directives—in your messaging and on the website, particularly those directed at prospective students. But the campaign doesn’t end with conversion. Rather, conversion is just the beginning. After you’ve gained a student’s interest (or better yet, matriculation), the real challenge begins. Will your institution deliver what you’ve promised? Will your lived brand experience live up to the buildup? Make sure this is the case before you launch your next campaign. Schedule a branding and digital strategy consultation with me and kick off a successful campaign. Schedule now.

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