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CASE: Marketing Doesn’t Mean Compromising Your Institutional Values

From CASE.com:  http://www.case.org/x31454.xml

Academic institutions that tie their brands to their history and speak in an authentic voice can stay true to their values as they market themselves, said John Fahy, a professor of marketing at the University of Limerick and speaker at the 2010 CASE Europe Annual Conference held recently in Glasgow.Fahy, speaking on “Effective Marketing Strategies in Higher Education,” said an institution’s brand is “path dependent.”

“Look to your institution’s founders and history to understand the essence of your brand and then restate it for 2010,” he said. “Your brand is the embodiment of your value proposition to consumers. Brands are your organization.”

While the “language of business” associated with marketing is now more accepted on campus, Fahy said, some professors still voice concerns that marketing detracts from an institution’s academic values.

“Marketing is a mature profession based on trust and accountability,” he said. “Institutions that are successful will speak authentically to gain the trust of their constituents.”

Fahy offered attendees the following advice:

  • Define your value proposition. Marketing is “the development of a differentiated value proposition,” he said, noting that marketing is challenging for universities, which are complex organizations that often aim to be all things to all people. “Universities that are successful in marketing will identify the attributes that differentiate them from their competitors.”
  • Don’t confuse tools with strategy. “Facebook and publicity are not marketing. In borrowing from the commercial sphere, universities have borrowed the tools without knowing the implications of using them. Marketing is focused on knowing our constituents.”
  • The institution’s chief executive officer is responsible for marketing. “The vice chancellor, president, principal or chief executive officer must live and be passionate about the brand. Of course you need a team to develop and implement the strategy, but the CEO has the ultimate responsibility.”
  • The consumer is changing. Market research is essential and should focus on understanding the institution’s constituents. “What do we know about them? What do they care about? Open up the brand with the consumer.”

Effective marketing is especially important given changing public attitudes toward higher education, Fahy added.

“At one time, the predominant view of universities was that they serve the public good and should be preserved and protected,” he said. “Now, there is pressure to demonstrate the return on investment and contribution to society.”


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