Higher education is an industry where differentiation is key. Let’s face it… when it comes down to it, the end result for students in higher education is typically all the same, to receive certified recognition for their academic fulfillment. So, how can you show students that your school is unique from the rest, and ensure that your university and its brand isn’t lost in the sea of options?
One of the biggest mistakes universities make is promoting distinctives rather than differentiators. So what's the difference? A differentiator is simply something different about your school. It's something that other schools don't offer or something that you do better than other schools. A distinctive can become a differentiator if your offering is measurably or observably better than that of another school. In a word, it is something that is unique about your school.
Broadcasting or promoting the same distinctives as your competitors works against your efforts to differentiate your brand. Why be a lemon, in a bin full of lemons? Stand out from the crowd.
Plenty of universities promote their acclaimed programs, small class sizes, and beautiful campuses, but what makes yours truly different? This doesn’t mean that these things don’t matter, or that your university shouldn’t pride itself on these qualities; but rather, find a way to focus on what is truly unique and unparalleled in your university. Don’t stop with the what, dive into the why and how of the differentiator as it will help you communicate the value(s) of your brand as well as present living examples of it.
Back up your brand with living examples of what your brand stands for. Take the success of George Fox University, for example. They found distinct and unparalleled value in their “Be Known” promise that students are known academically, spiritually, and personally at their small Christian university. They then took this and backed it up with their heightened dedication to campus visits because the “Be Known” promise can then be felt and seen throughout university experiences.
Before you settle on only presenting our school's distinctives, take the necessary time to discover and articulate your school's differentiators and brand. Find out what your school offers that is different and can be backed-up through consistent and sustained "student experiences". Another way to say it, is to find out what your school excels at. What are you already doing that is right?
Before you settle on and solidify your differentiators check out your cross-app schools. What are they saying ? What's their brand promise? Once you're convinced your school stands alone in your differentiating claims then you'll want to weave them into your school's value proposition and associated messaging. Then, continually reward and reinforce (with living examples) any and all behaviors that deliver on your brand and/or brand promise.
Interested in learning more about articulating the value and values of your school? Rest assured, we'll be covering this topic in the next blog.
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