Are you talking your students’ language?

A well-defined Brand Voice can help business schools and universities distinguish themselves in a competitive market.

As an agency, we work with a number of internationally-focussed universities and business schools, and while we’d like to think it’s because of our dazzling personalities, it’s almost certainly down to our focus on Brand Voice and on putting it at the heart of everything we do. Prospective students are, after all, a unique audience, and they respond to nuances in language more readily than most. Or to put it another way: it’s not just what you say that’s important to them, it’s how you say it.

Brand Voice in action

As every content and marketing director will be aware, the words that your organisation uses – and the way they’re put together – create what’s known as your Brand Voice (often, this is defined in what’s sometimes called a tone-of-voice document). And if this Brand Voice is clear and consistent, it can be a powerful tool that helps your audience to instantly recognise your brand and understand your position in the market.

Defining a Brand Voice for a university or business school requires a more subtle approach compared with working with single-issue private sector organisations. Different degrees attract different students (with distinct motivations). Copenhagen Business School, for example, offers several MBA degrees – including the unique Executive MBA in Shipping & Logistics – and the variety of its output requires a unified Brand Voice to bring all those strands together, while allowing each discipline to shine.

An adaptable tone

This can be achieved by instituting an adaptable set of tonal values within the Brand Voice. So, for example, a business school’s Brand Voice might be created from the following four tonal values:

  • Inspiring
  • Inclusive
  • Authoritative
  • Approachable

These would all be given equal weighting for most branding situations, but they could be recalibrated for a particular purpose or audience. Overseas students may, for example, engage more with the approachable tone and therefore this value could be promoted over and above the other three values. On the other hand, younger, more entrepreneurial students may find the inspiring tonal value more appealing. The trick is to ‘dial’ these values up or down according to the situation.

This adaptive approach to Brand Voice is particularly applicable to social and content marketing campaigns but could also be applied to individual sections (or possibly pages) within a prospectus, for example.

 Talk their language

Talking of overseas students, it’s also worth noting that – although universities and business schools are expected to be setting the agenda in their fields and among their peers – enrolment marketing materials should be clear and easy to understand. UK English remains the primary language of business and academia in many global locations, and it’s worth recruiting the services of an agency that employs suitably experienced copywriters.

As a final note on Brand Voice for universities and business schools, while it may be tempting to create a language that’s informed by bold tonal values in an effort to stand out – or perhaps to reflect your institution’s ground-breaking work – it can be a counterproductive strategy. Err on the side of caution; anything too audacious or edgy runs the risk of alienating potential students.

And before we at SIM7 receive complaints for failing to challenge conventions or to live up to our billing as a creative agency, we’d certainly recommend being as audacious or as edgy as you dare when it comes to design and the visual elements. Because when a clearly-defined Brand Voice works in harmony with a bold brand identity, the marketing magic really happens.

To learn more about Brand Voice and how it can transform your university or business school marketing, drop Henry John a line at Henry@sim7creative.co.uk. Thanks for reading.