building a brand one need some 'points of differentiation' and some 'points of parity', whether it's Dell, Ferrari, Walmart, KFC, Cadbury or an academic institute. For quite sometimes Indian institutes have been working on above
mentioned two branding concepts to establish and communicate importance of technical & professional degree programs among stakeholders – aspirants, students, parents, alumni, employers, society. But, with precipitously
escalating numbers of institutes and with current well established differentiation like IIT/IIM brands and non-IIT/non-IIM brands; need of hour is to go deeper and to shift focus on branding at institute level. Such institutional
level branding is to be done through application of hardcore marketing (selling included) concepts. Such concepts may seem objectionable to someone believing in pure Indian education system, professing that academic institute is
not a commercial organization and such act would cause aberration of institute's academic mission. But in reality there is incontrovertible parallel between an academic institution and Dell, Ferrari……
experience an institute provides to students has a price associated with it; institutional vitality is highly dependent upon the revenue generated from student enrollments; an institute has competitors seeking sustainable
competitive advantage in terms of price (fee), quality, services & image and aspirants being exposed to so many marketing messages.
However, the concept of branding to academic institute is somewhat different from
branding in the commercial sector. Institute's branding starts with faculty members and students asking and answering simple questions like Who are we? What is our culture? How should we add value to stakeholders? An institutional
brand is many a times is equated with institute's academic reputation, which is a function of desired brand image, brand attributes and brand benefits – ultimately value of a brand is defined by those are being served.
Further institutional branding is meant to propel an institution from its mission to its vision by creatively conveying the powerful marketing strategy that will take it from where it is to where it wants to reach. Branding an
institute is a two pronged holistic exercise; first brand development through making & delivering unique promises, and subsequent brand promotion.
1. Truth as foundation stone:
Today aspirants and students are exposed to so many marketing messages from various institutes (Colleges, Coaching institutes, Training institutes). In today's era of IT & media, many of these aspirants and students are quite
savvy when working out- whether what institutions are saying is real or just simply a bland tag line. So, it is imperative that promotional statements and claims are evidence based. We should make it evidence based and deliver on
promise(s) claimed. And the students will do the rest for us, as satisfied students have a personal interest in helping to grow the reputation of their Alma mater.
2. Tie Ups: 'Value addition' proposition works quite
well for both students and faculty members. There should be tie up with industries and other institutions; especially in upcoming areas like Entrepreneurship (NEN – Bangalore, EDI- Ahmadabad, ISOEL-USA). Here exchange of
inputs and ideas between institutes should be carried out symbiotically so that at the end of the day both the parties experience a win-win scenario. There should be tie up with different corporates for upgrading and developing
'beyond the syllabus' content to make program germane and dynamic in every area – say Analog Electronics or Marketing Management. Further at least two corporates strong in related areas should proactively participate in developing
Management Development Prog, and Faculty Development Prog. Tie up with different NGOs like – CRY, Help Age; to work in tandem for social cause like natural calamity, woman empowerment, child labor, rural development etc. is
indispensable to do societal marketing to address social causes to get higher acceptability. This will help us in building a holistic brand image.
3. Promotional language and tagline: One should be mindful of how
brand campaign language may be perceived internally by target stakeholders- hardcore semantic & linguistics analysis may help here. It should describe the essence of the institution and should have wide acceptance.
4. Faculty Mentoring: Many institutes have been focusing on student mentoring. It's time to focus on faculty mentoring (especially for new & less experienced faculty members). We should provide entering faculty members with
some form of orientation designed to acquaint them with institutional mission, policies, procedures and culture. Delivering a comprehensive, in-depth faculty orientation program would represent a substantial commitment of resources
by the institution and a significant commitment of time by the faculty leading to higher bonding and at a same faculty would be clear about what the institutional brand is all about and what contribution is expected from him/her.
5. Promoting Research: Research is not only critical to the mission of the institute, it is also critical to the economic and social development of society. Institute should promote quality research (which is read
& cited and at the end has applications for the market & society) both faculty and student level. Separate budget should be allocated for the same. Quality research work published in reputed journals and funded by reputed
bodies will certainly add to branding.
6. Alumni relations: Alumni are our biggest assets and our real interface with corporate. It's our responsibility to ensure that they feel they are very much part of the family.
Networking is the order of the day. One should have updated alumni database –batch wise, sector wise. Share that database with all alumni to help them get better company to work with, next time they think to switch. If our alumni
find some value addition and feel through our action that we still care them, they will think for us in terms of sharing their valuable experiences and helping in quality placements. This would help us in tapping heterogeneous basket of companies from diverse industries & operations and would ultimately prove our brand's acceptance cutting across diverse sectors.
1. Magazine & Journal: It's a novel way to create buzz in otherwise cluttered education market and building
an adroit brand image. Our intellectual capital should be encouraged to don thinking caps, hone writing skill and contribute to institutional magazines & journals. Topic should be very relevant and out of the box thinking
should be encouraged. Further faculty and student write-ups in different institutions' magazine should be encouraged. . Even writing by prominent alumni should be encouraged. We could design a series of articles focused on entrance
exams so that repeated reading by aspirants leave a lasting impact –Top of the mind brand awareness.
2. Surveys & Ranking: Institute should participate regularly in all major education ranking surveys like in
Business today, Business world, Outlook etc. These have strong potential to enhance quality exposure & visibility. Even if we miss out our coveted position in some rankings, we could consider the parameters and could find out
where we really need to develop vis a vis our competitor Institutes. Many a time aspirants are guided by these ranks. Even for corporate ranking is a rational tool to select its required manpower.
3. Event management
: Purpose of an event is to hone students' & faculty members' skill and create a short term buzz around that institutional brand. Event management; like promotion of institute even through co-branding at different management,
economic and technical events; is essential to augment visibility and brand image amongst corporate and other institutes. Attempt should be to make these events as our USP.
4. Institutional Website: In today's World
Wide Web era, none can afford to miss online interaction with its stakeholders. Institutes should develop web site very carefully. It must offer some value addition especially to students and faculty members and should be as
informative as possible for example there should be different topics related to national and international business and economy.
5. YouTube: While dealing with high involvement services (as is the case with higher
education institutes) experiential marketing is highly effective. YouTube videos of quality lectures from some of our engaging faculty or students participating in both classroom and campus activities, allow aspirants to envisage
what they can expect to experience if they attend our institute.
At Institute level branding should not be relegated to just another marketing exercise. First and foremost, it must be about
systemic institutional change at both macro & micro level. Subsequently institute must use branding as a catalyst for defining who the institution is and what it aspires to become. If implemented properly, branding can be a
means of unifying the campus around a common vision and purpose. To some, in academia branding could be an impure concept best left to the commercial sector. So, institute could cast the branding effort in a context that is more
palatable and with using some more acceptable terminologies. It's time to deploy a holistic approach with all stirring conditions existing at present; to radically improve an institution's brand image in India. Truly, it's high
time to go beyond IIT/IIM brands and non-IIT/non-IIM brands and leave a foot mark in higher education industry.
Hemant Bamoriya is a faculty of Marketing. He is associated with half a dozen
reputed journals as reviewer and is content advisor at AJE, USA. He has 3 years of rich experience of marketing & brand management in pharma sector.
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