Friday, May 29, 2009

Marketing of Education

What do I get from a degree?

This post is a little different and reflects more of 'my day job' rather than purely personal thoughts.

Recently we've had the opportunity to talk to several education institutions and this intense activity got us focused on the question: How do we approach marketing a degree?

Rather than start with the media plan, we thought about the reasons why someone gets a particular degree. That in turn provided insights into who and why a person wants that benefit. Finally, these considerations informed the media planning process. Using the classic consulting 2*2 matrix approach for positioning and differentiation we've outlined outcomes for various types of schools and programs giving each a name, an image and a reason for being.
  • Schools: range from general state universities to very specific niche or prestige schools
    • General: full range of education opportunities: national online schools, state schools, general liberal arts
    • Specific: Branded B-Schools, any 'top 10', single focused schools
  • Programs: range from general purpose degrees, e.g. liberal arts, to specific skills and credentials
    • General: Masters Finance, BA Psychology
    • Specific: Masters in Jurisprudence Health Care, Bachelor in Internet Marketing, Cosmetology Diploma
What people want as an outcome from these two dimensions is fairly easy to imagine and explain using an analogy of sand boxes.
  • Stepping Stone: a general program from a general school allows you to get the next level of your career. This is often a default or local choice where 'any sandbox' will do. (Masters in Finance, UofU)
  • Short List: a very specific program from a general school gives you the credentials to get in the short stack of resumes in the HR office. This combination gives you the 'tools to make things from sand'. (MJP Healthcare, Loyola)
  • Open Doors: a general program from a specific school is about the network and access. A 'business' degree from branded B-Schools opens the doors because it was the 'right sandbox.' (MBA, Wharton)
  • Key to the Kingdom: the singular focus of a program and school is all about achieving a dream. The degree gives you the ability to make sand. (Rhode Island School of Design; Computer Science, Neumont)
What we draw on the whiteboard looks like this:

Each quadrant has a persona and hence warrants a different approach to marketing. For instance, it is clear that the brand may be the school or the program. In rare cases like Thunderbird, they are one and the same. This impacts messaging. The degree to which one of the dimensions is 'specific' influences the choice of broadcast or targeted media because people are more likely to research and extend effort to attend one of these options.

More to follow.

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