By: Patrick Coskren
While on http://www.smartbrief.com, I came across the following article: “The Name Game Colleges Rebrand to get More Students,” by Lisa Rathke. In this article, Rathke discusses the thoughts and concerns some colleges face with declining enrollment, reduced public funding or both. There are state colleges and universities who are adding graduate programs and changing their names to attract more students and compete with private institutions.
Some colleges, such as Castleton College of Vermont, have begun adding additional graduate classes in hopes of attracting more out-of-state and foreign students. This is because those students pay more in out-of-state tuition rates and could help offset budget concerns. In terms of marketing, I found this fascinating. While the college is taking the initiative to add additional classes, I see this as them using a differentiation strategy. Many times in marketing companies are competing on two main fronts, either cost or differentiation. With the costs of all colleges increasing in today’s day in age, by differentiating themselves, these community colleges become state colleges, and state colleges become universities, based on what they now offer students is a simple yet very effective way to differentiate and attract more students to ultimately generate more money.
According to Collins English dictionary, “rebranding is the process of giving a product or an organization a new image, in order to make it more attractive or successful.” Throughout this article I was plagued with the question that I remember having read back in a high school English class while reading Shakespeare: “what’s in a name?” As I have already mentioned above, in terms of differentiating and the possibility of growth through attraction/rebranding, the name of a college could prove to be extremely successful for potential and future students. However, what impact might it have to those who walked through the halls of these campuses years prior? I could not help but place myself in the shoes of alumni who had recently been informed my alma mater would be changing its name. For me, the name of the school in which I chose to pursue my undergraduate degree holds significant and deep meaning. Although changing the name might be more attractive to rising and potential students, and even ultimately be a great marketing plan, to someone like me, as an alumni, I do express contempt towards this idea. The name of where I chose to spend 4 years of my life holds significant meaning to me. Please understand the bigger picture of what these colleges are choosing to pursue is not lost on me. I am confident there are many out there who would be delighted to know the college they attended was choosing to rebrand and go through the necessary qualification to become a University. Yet, to me, it would not be the same. I would much rather see schools follow the inspiration approach presented by Simon Sinek in a Ted Talk from September 2009, and encourage these colleges to inspire those looking to attend through his famous quote, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. If these colleges were to successfully rebrand using this simple quote I feel they would see much greater results in the long run.
Overall, it is clear to see that branding is something that every company does. Take Ralph Lauren, for example: why would someone want to spend $80 for a shirt when they could spend $10 on one at Wal-Mart? Through branding and consumers habits, those who buy this shirt want those who see it to know who manufactured it. They are wearing those clothes as a symbol. I bring up Ralph Lauren to attempt to draw a parallel to customer loyalty through branding. While it might be less expensive to try out a shirt than to try out a year at a college, my message remains constant: through the use of intelligent branding, companies and colleges have the opportunity to draw in those who will remain loyal to them. This will, in turn, result in brand equity. When a customer values the product or service not only will they be loyal, but they will also share the experience with others. Whether it be clothes or college, the most important fact to remember is that branding in today’s day in age, when done correctly, can prove to be extremely profitable.