Branding in education has become a very significant requirement for success.
In modern times, an educational institute doesn’t only sustain with a building with classrooms, teachers, students and other infrastructure. Like other brick and mortar stores, it requires branding via advertising and social media publicity. After all, education, too, is an industry and for educational institutions to sustain, building the brand is of utmost importance.
What exactly is branding?
A brand represents a unique, identifiable symbol by which ownership or origin may be ascertained. A distinct Brand Experience is at the forefront of creating recognisable Higher Education facilities that support student life, while also acting as marketing and recruiting vehicles. Facilities like cafes, libraries, hostels and recreation centres present unique opportunities to establish and strengthen a university’s brand identity. How these facilities are planned and designed play a key role in shaping the student life experience, encouraging alumnae engagement and in successfully marketing the forward thinking Higher Education institution.
On similar lines, Prof. Furqan Qamar, Secretary General, Association of Indian Universities says, “Branding is not about technology and communicating only, but is about so many things like institute facilities and much more put together where social media could play one very important role to deliver this technology to reach a global audience worldwide in a fraction of second.”
Speaking at The Intelligentsia Summit 2016, Dr H Chaturvedi, Director-BIMTECH, Alternative President EPSI explained the present need and trend of branding in education by saying, “Branding in education has become a very significant requirement for success. Till the 80s and 90s, it was thought that branding was necessary only for consumer durables, FMCG sector or for creating difference in services. In India education is considered not for profit creating a big dichotomy. According to the Supreme Court of India, you cannot run an educational institute for profit. So till there are changes in the view of Supreme Court or any amendments are made in the Indian Constitution, education is not for profit.”
At the same time, he emphasised on the business aspect of running an educational institution. “But in practice no organisation or any educational institute can run without creating any surplus. Surplus would be generated if the market is dominated by sellers. In case of high demand and shortage of supply, branding is not needed as surplus is generated due to scarcity of seats. He supported this fact with an example saying that there is a shortage of medical colleges in India. With the supply of 60,000 seats and demand of 3 lakh seats of MBBS per annum, branding is not required. Very few medical colleges like Medical College of Bangalore and Manipal College have gone in for branding, rest all are surviving on scarcity of the seats,” he said.
How is branding done?
Branding your higher education facility requires certain steps to be followed. The brand needs to know its existing and potential target audiences. Understand the demographics, but push beyond to identify what motivates their decision-making process. Reach out to touch their minds and their hearts.At the Intelligentsia Summit, Prof. M J Xavier, Vice Chancellor, Karunya University,said, “The fundamental problem arises the moment you bring brand into education. I think it is no more about branding but about stakeholder engagement . Branding is a by-product and a misleading term, but engaging with stakeholders is very important. I have a large number of alumni and I need to engage with them, I have prospective students who want to come and join me and I need to engage with them. Traditionally we used to send out newsletters for engaging with them. Today if you want to succeed, you’ll have to understand that this does not limit to four walls or a boundary, it extends to students, parent and community and large. Social media is nowadays a very important means of engaging with these large and diversified groups. Engaging with school children in their 11th and 12th is very important so that by the time they graduate from schools, we are the most preferred institute to join. “
It is also important to identify your institution’s DNA and understand its make-up. What defines the spirit and the experience of the campus? How can you differentiate from peers and competitors?
The pros of branding on social media
Social engagement and branding in education sector provides various benefits, some of which are:
Arvind Passey, senior columnist, The Education Post gave a perfect example of how branding can make a brand popular among the masses. He explained how a daughter of his house-help, who just completed her schooling and was wondering what to do next, told him that she was aware of LPU. It’s all the result of excellent branding techniques applied by that university.
According to Qamar, “Branding and advertising have the same purpose of bringing the brand at the top but in education it means what you are actually selling and doing what you promised and the people noticing that.”
Dr. K J S Anand, Executive Director, IMS Noida adds, “Social media is inevitable as it is the most apt mechanism to reach out to masses but instead of deciding whether to choose it or not we should be careful of the content which goes online.”
The cons of branding on social media
But to these advantages, many also see a not-so-good side to it. Social media engagements can involve some disadvantages too.
With plenty of social media sites to choose from, it can leave institutes wondering which social media network will yield the best results for their education facility. Institutes have to pinpoint their target students, then research to determine which network their potential students use the most.
Another drawback islearning to use social media, which can be daunting for faculty. While setting up a profile or page may be easy, figuring out the best ways to engage with students and use social media to help achieve its goals may be challenging. With no social media strategy in place, it's difficult to set goals and measure whether it's successful for your education facility. Institutes may have to invest in social media consultants, take training classes or hire an employee specifically dedicated to social media.
Dr. Jitendra K Das, Director, Fore school of Management, says, “The faculty which is 50 plus is not very comfortable with the features on mobile phones by and large.”
He gave an example of his friend who is an alumni of IIT, PHD from U.S and a techie who recently came to India to join an institute as a leader. When he was asked to join a WhatsApp group by Das, he told him that he did not know how to key in the alphabets on a phone. “So nowadays people have to sync with the technology,” he says.
The business of education
Education in India has a not-for-profit structure but institutes nowadays are opening up to reaching out to people to build their brands to create a positive impression in the minds of people. According to Arvind Passey, ”There are 3 Bs in education - Budget, Branding and Business. Educational institutes in India and worldwide are here for business, they have a budget and probably depend on branding.”
Dr. Hari Krishna Maram, Chairman and Founder, Imperial College, Bangalore further adds, “If you look at the top 10 brands of the world, we’ll come to know that the brand value or the brand capitalisation of the topmost brand Apple is $200 billion equivalent to the entire education industry of South East Asia. It has a market capitalisation of $800 billion and they spend $1.8 billion to promote this brand. If you look at the top 100 brand of this world, you will not find any education brand but if you look at education as a brand, we have Nalanda, Oxford which are 1000s of years old. At that time, no one knew the meaning of the word Brand. As an education institute, we have an advantage today. There are 400 billion people today who use mobile phones, 100 crore people touching Facebook, 50 crore people posting on Instagram, the challenge is to reach these people with the right content. The topmost education brands like Stanford, Oxford made the brand but they don’t work as a business entity. If once the change of the attitude happens towards business we might see a couple of education brands figuring in the topmost brands in 2018-2020.”
Therefore, it is not just important, but imminent, today to look at the business aspect of education for institutions to become brands that people know of. The use of an integrated team for building brand and marketing will successfully result in identifying and integrating a Higher Education institution’s unique “DNA” into tangible Branded Experiences and Environments.