Four Simple Habits of Great Brand Schools

If you were to ask a room of people interested in higher education to fill in a blank sheet of paper with 20 of the best-known schools in the country, it’s likely we would see a considerable amount of agreement as to the identity of those schools.

These institutions would represent educational “brands” that have found their way into the consciousness of people who have never even been on their campuses. It’s not a stretch to say that people have developed a point of view regarding each of them.

The “top 20” list for many people would not merely feature schools with Division I football programs, but they may very well include Swarthmore and Wellesley, Oberlin and Carleton. Each of these institutions is a strong brand; each has an external identity that is an accurate and compelling reflection of what it actually is and wants to be. And this brand identity is an enormous asset, making many activities—from student recruitment, to faculty and staff hiring, to fundraising—considerably easier.

The question then becomes, “How does a school without a strong brand identity develop one?” We believe the answer starts with paying attention to four simple habits of great brand schools:

  1. They have histories in which the current community of the college takes pride.
  2. They nurture honorable traditions that serve not only to unite the current generation of the school in appreciation of the shared experience, but also bind together the generations of the college in a sense of shared citizenship.
  3. They develop alumni that remain engaged with and invested in the institutions through the course of their lives.
  4. They have the vision and the courage to be themselves, to take their own journey, to follow no other.

Cognitive Marketing is creating this forum to enhance the discovery of building and maintaining great brands within the realm of higher education. After two decades of service to the industry, we’re excited about the opportunity to offer our insights and to engage with other thought leaders in dialogue to advance the industry.

We will be exploring a range of related topics through regular posts to this site, and you are encouraged to share your perspectives with us. We’re looking forward to getting the conversation underway…

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