After spending 4 days in New Orleans with schools from all over the world, it seems of value to share some of my main takeaways from the American Marketing Association Higher Education Symposium. The conference brought in almost 1000 attendees from small community colleges to Cardiff University in the UK. I attended sessions by Stanford University, Bentley University, University of Michigan Admissions, Ithica College and more. I was also honored to present at this conference with Alex Hummel on our integrated marketing communications model at UW Oshkosh. We were able to provide great examples of how the success of our communications strategy is reliant on the collaboration across the campus.
The themes that came through were unavoidable:
- Branding strategies must rely on data. You cannot have a successful brand if the brand strategy isn’t grounded in research and testing. Begin with market research, develop creative options then test them. (And don’t be surprised when your favorite concept is not the winner when tested with your audiences).
- Authenticity is critical. This came through the loudest in sessions relating to student recruitment. We are trying to reach a sophisticated population of consumers that are skeptical of “marketing” and want to hear from real people, real students. This made me smile as I thought about the work our Admissions office is doing with that very concept: http://www.uwosh.edu/admissions/talk-to-uwo-students/
- Listen to your audiences. If you want to try something new make sure it is something your audiences want before you put resources into doing it. Simple surveys can either validate your ideas or save you time and energy.
It was also validating to know that the work we do with branding and integrated marketing communications is part of the national model of how to do it right. Last year I was able to stand on the AMA stage and accept the “Marketer of the Year – Team” award on behalf of our Integrated Marketing and Communications Office, and then this year help decide the new Marketer of the Year winners as a part of the judging committee. As we continue to grow and evolve our strategy here at UW Oshkosh, I couldn’t be happier to be working with an amazing campus community that embraces it.