Adult Recruiting Success

Perhaps the biggest question an adult student marketer (and their dean) must answer is this: Is our program a brand buy or a commodity buy? In other words, are we selling—and are students buying—prestige and all its trappings, or are we selling convenience?

Properly answering this key question will help assure marketing success. Answering this question incorrectly means that your marketing efforts will struggle.

Let me explain.

Brand-buy versus commodity programs

Brand-buy programs are sold on quality and prestige. In most cases, these are truly of higher quality. They are often full-time programs or executive programs. Students interested in brand programs tend to be more academically capable, have higher expectations, and want to work with full-time faculty who are well-credentialed and well-regarded. These students are somewhat less cost sensitive. They are willing to make the commitment to a full-time or cohort program. Accreditation is important.

Commodity programs are sold on cost and convenience. Students interested in these programs are very price sensitive, they are more likely to work while attending school, and they can be somewhat more oriented toward “that next job” rather than longer term career goals. Their faculty are more likely to be adjunct who bring current, real-world experience to the classroom. Accreditation is less important.

Mistaking one for the other

A red flag for marketers rises when deans and faculty leaders insist the program is a brand buy when in reality it is a commodity buy. This insistence is more likely based on ego than on data.

Below I’ve outlined a handful of key issues for which students interested in brand buys often differ from students interested in commodity buys. Note that placement and outcomes data is important to both brand and commodity buys.

Brand Buys

Commodity Buys

  • Students are less price sensitive
  • Students are more price sensitive
  • Less (but still) concerned about time to degree
  • Time to degree is a major issue
  • Accreditation is highly valued
  • Accreditation plays less of a role
  • Attend classes during the day
  • Attend classes late afternoon, evenings, and weekends
  • Value full-time, well-credentialed faculty
  • Value full-time faculty and adjuncts with real-world (and work) experience
  • Research-based
  • Practical/experiential-based
  • Placement data
  • Placement data

Interested in discussing how to tackle the brand buy discussion at your campus? Let’s connect. Send me a message at or leave a comment below.

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