Until recently, business schools all spoke in the same way and said the same things. Then the penny dropped. To get noticed, they needed to express their personality.
They did that by positioning their brands. Logos, tone of voice guidelines and graphics changed to communicate what makes schools and the learning experiences they offer unique. The results were mixed. They still are.
Those who’ve got it right stand out from the crowd, and by doing that, are much more visible and attractive to the kind of potential participants they want to enrol. They’re the ones who understand that the key to positioning is to nail who your brand is speaking to, what your school can offer them, what sets it apart, and what it does better than the rest.
Repositioning a business school brand
Your school’s brand has probably been positioned already. But its positioning can and should evolve. Like all markets, the world of business higher education keeps on turning and so do the needs, desires and outlooks of your target participants. To remain effective, your brand positioning needs to keep up. In other words, it needs to be repositioned. This is how.
The starting base is always your target participants. You probably already know what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to achieve, and how they communicate. Great. But make sure to keep up with how those things are changing. For your brand to be effective, relatability with your target participants is indispensable.
And then of course, there are your competitors. Gone are the days when every business school brand was made on the same assembly line. Get to know the brands of other schools and pay special attention to:
- Schools with similar strengths and USPs to yours and how they communicate those in their branding
- Schools with completely different strengths and USPs to yours and how they communicate those in their branding
Which ideas work? Which don’t? Which should be dropped and which could be borrowed and improved? This knowledge will lead to insights that open opportunities to position your brand advantageously against its competitors.
Creative agencies that work with business schools know the market and answer these questions day in, day out. If you need a hand, they should be your first port of call.
Your invisible friends
Give your buyer personas some love and attention. They might need updating if you haven’t changed them for a while. When was the last time you carried out a survey? If it was way back when, running one will reveal how your target participants have changed and how to adapt your personas accordingly. Remember, it’s those personas your brand needs to speak to.
Watch the new kids
If a new business school opens that has similar strengths and USPs to yours or is located in your region, study it. Ask:
- How does its brand communicate those similar strengths and USPs?
- What does its brand do differently to yours?
- How might you need to differentiate your brand to set it apart?
Keeping a tab on the performance of schools that are similar to yours is also a good idea. It can give you an indication of how strong and well positioned their brand is. Market research can give you the answers, as can speaking to other companies who have an intimate knowledge of the sector.
Business Schools all do the same thing: they teach business. But they don’t all do it in the same way or in the same place. They don’t all have the same learning environments or student cultures. So although they all offer the same thing, they offer it differently.
Think about the distinctive aspects of your school’s competitors and identify what potential participants might prefer about your school – what your school does differently or better, to put it another way. Reposition your brand to subtly communicate those things. Doing that will make your school stand out and look like the clear alternative, and for potential participants suited to your school, that will also mean looking like the better choice.
Play your trump cards
What sets your school apart and what it does best are the magic ingredients that will make your brand distinctive and attractive.
So in what ways are you ahead of the pack? With the networks you help your participants establish? The expertise of your teaching staff? The post-graduation services you provide? The peace and quiet of your campus which allows for long, deep-focus study? Whatever it is that you do best, shout about it by repositioning your brand to communicate it loud and clear.
Self-evaluation can be tricky. Things you see all the time are sometimes the easiest to miss. They fade into wallpaper. For an objective view, it’s a good idea to ask the opinion of people who are on the outside looking in. Especially people who know the sector and know about branding.
Creative agencies that work with business schools can pinpoint any school’s strengths and distinctive features from a mile off. If in doubt, speak to one. And even if you’re not, it’s a good idea anyway.
Know your school, know your target participants and know your market. This knowledge will reveal what your brand should be saying and how it should be saying it. And remember, these things are evolving all the time. If you need help, creative agencies that work with business schools are the best experts you can turn to.
Need a hand manoeuvring your business school brand positioning?