The Doubletake Team attended the AMA (American Marketing Association) Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education right outside the nation’s capital last week, and soaked up tons of learning.
The educational sessions featured top marketers at institutions nationwide, higher ed marketing agency leaders, innovative college/university presidents, and more.
Here are some of our top takeaways:
1) Bridging the Gaps Between Siloed Departments
This was a common theme throughout the conference. Marketing is pervasive throughout the institution’s structure. Enrollment, Admissions, Student Affairs, Advancement, and Retention aren’t simply independent departments with their own objectives – they’re all torchbearers of the same overall mission that begins with the Brand and uses Marketing as a unifying force.
Do you feel like your mission is aligned with other departments?
2) Student-Centric Strategy
Think like the user. Marketing should start from the perspective of the intended audience, not the institution. Look through the lens of the students and speak their language.
How does the [prospective] student want to be interacted with?
3) Tell a Story
The student--NOT the institution--is the hero in their own story. Start with the present and show the path through the future.
How is your institution uniquely positioned to equip the student to be the hero?
4) Authentic, [Sometimes] Messy, Storytelling
Student-centric video content, with a mix of raw and highly-produced, resonates. It only takes a student 3 seconds to make a snap judgement, and they use facts and feelings to make decisions. Real stories, even if imperfect (overcoming obstacles) are more captivating – without a conflict there is no story.
How are you using storytelling to impact recruitment, yield and retention?
5) The Student Shortage
Whether you call it the “Demographic Cliff,” or the “Enrollment Gap,” the fact is that the pool of college-age Americans will drop by ~15% in the next few years. Competition for the shrinking pool is increasing.
How is your institution appealing to prospective students, and what are you doing to stand out?
6) The Next Generation
Incoming college students over the next ~5-10 years are late-Gen Z/early-Gen Alpha. Some generalizations: socially conscious, risk-averse, appreciative of options (students apply to 12-15 schools on average!), digital-native, analytical, value-conscious.
How are you appealing to their priorities when choosing a school?
7) Multi-Dimensional Brand-Building
To quote an unknown but wise author, “How well a brand is delivered externally is how well a brand is understood internally.” Branding is personal. It has meaning. Experiment, try new things, make mistakes – sometimes the best innovations come from mistakes.
Do your marketing efforts reflect a comprehensive understanding of your institution’s brand?
8) Break Through the Sea of Sameness
Not all universities serve the same populations, exist for the same purposes, or need to convey the same messages.
What is the vibe at your institution? What’s it like to be a student there? What is the university’s essence?
9) Innovation with Purpose
Not different for the sake of different, but unique for the sake of being true to your brand and communicating it effectively.
What’s your process for unpacking the true meaning of your institution’s brand?
10) What a Wonderful World!
The higher education industry is a truly inspiring and transformational world to be a part of.
College/University brands have the opportunity to make a tremendous impact on society, and we at Doubletake are grateful to our higher education clients for the ability to contribute.
Thank you to all the attendees, presenters, exhibitors and AMA staff for making this a fantastic conference!