The five most common higher ed branding objections

If you’ve spent more than a few days in a higher education marketing office, you know that one of your primary responsibilities is winning the university over to the importance of branding. Without buy-in, you’re going to struggle to get much of anything done, and before long, you’ll be ineffective in your work and frustrated in your outlook.

Training and advocating for marketing and branding is a never-ending job, and it should be part of your goals every year, every term.

Once you’re out there training and advocating for your university's branding efforts, you’ll start to hear a few of the same branding objections over and over again. Here are some tips on how to identify them and how to answer them.

The Ostrich

Commonly heard saying: “We don’t need to invest in branding. What we need is [insert conceptual idea that ends up with The Ostrich receiving more budget money]”

How to answer it: Show results-driven value. Is your work getting results? You need to share these results regularly in presentations, on your website and in information sessions. Include The Ostrich in your listening sessions. 

The Ivory Tower Guard

Commonly heard saying: “I have no problem with branding the university, but this is simply not prestigious enough. We sound like MTV [or another surprisingly out-of-date reference to pop culture]."

How to answer it: Show data (like testing and surveys) that confirms your marketing speaks in your student’s language. Ivory Tower Guards are trying to protect the sanctity of education, and, to a certain extent, that’s O.K. You’ll need to show the difference between written academic communication and marketing communications. Also helpful: Find an ally, like a marketing professor. They can help you to communicate this important difference.

The Penny Pincher

Commonly heard saying: “We shouldn’t be spending our money on marketing. We should spend it on [new gear for my program].”

How to answer it: The Penny Pincher has some similar characteristics to the Ostrich, except that he or she frames the discussion in financial terms. Remember, the National Student Clearinghouse has reported enrollment declines almost annually for most of this decade. Once you’ve shown marketing’s results-driven value, show where the institution would be without marketing – or where it’s headed. Don't be afraid to paint an accurately bleak picture. 

The Loose Cannon

Commonly heard saying: Pretty much anything and everything, anytime, anywhere there are people gathered together.

How to answer it: Every school has a handful of Loose Cannons, and answering them is somewhat of a red herring. Chances are they are speaking mostly for themselves. Be polite and answer their questions as best you can, but don’t lose sleep if they are still upset or seem unconvinced. Know your audience. It’s not your job to win every battle. Just win the ones that matter.

The Armchair Market Researcher

Commonly heard saying: Their daughter doesn’t like this marketing at all, and she is going to attend [Insert aspirational school here].

How to answer it: This one  has two parts. If you’ve done your research and you’re getting results, then listen and welcome the feedback. Show how the marketing is working with its target audience and share the research you did. If you didn’t do your research, beware, this is the canary in the coal mine. Rough days may be ahead.

D. White & Company helps institutions build the case for effective, strategically-aligned branding and marketing. They conduct brand training workshops, strategic audits and creative execution. Connect with them today.