Let’s face it. The idea of rebranding your institution is frightening.

A recent Inside Higher Ed article talks about why so many college brands are similar looking, and why they continue to be similar. When launching a rebranding campaign, many universities focus more on how they want to be perceived rather than what they have to offer students.

It’s Not Your Imagination. Most Institutions Look the Same.

It makes perfect sense why higher institutions are scared to move outside their comfort zones. College is a major investment. It sets graduates back tens of thousands of dollars. The quality of the education also plays a role in their careers. How prepared will they be for their industry? Will businesses want to hire them?

With so much at stake, colleges and universities feel it’s best to play it safe and be similar to other institutions. If they move outside the boundaries and end up looking inadequate, their entire image could be compromised. So…safe, steady and predictable it is!

The thing is, this is all an illusion. Every brand has to take a risk at some point, and it’s true that not every risk will pay off. But when it does, your brand will be separated from the competition and leave a lasting impression on your audience.

With decreasing enrollment and wider choices for a higher education, today’s colleges and universities must not be afraid to be different.

Tips for Rebranding Your Institution – Smartly.

If you are considering rebranding your institution, how can you do so tastefully without going too far that it jeopardizes the trust factor you have built with students and alumni?

Start by writing out a clear, strategic vision.

Your institution probably has a team that works specifically on increasing admissions. Assign this group – or a few people in this group – to research what makes your school unique and what students love about it. This will help you see things through their eyes. Other elements to include in your vision are academic quality, student life and employment potential.

Promote your strengths to a niche group of students.

Maybe your institution has a strong international program or internship opportunities with a local corporation. When you have a specific area to focus on, you set yourself apart from other schools. This decreases the competition and puts you in direct reach to students who are more likely to apply at your school.

Know the reasons for rebranding.

Sometimes, a new campaign is all you need to freshen things up. Other times, you need a brand overhaul. Know when it’s right to rebrand your institution. It’s not worth it just for the sake of being fresh and new. The best time to rebrand is when your school has a new focus from your previous one. If you were known for music and arts and want to push technology, this would call for a rebrand.


To be competitive in your higher education marketing strategy, you must be proactive. If you continue to follow other schools for the sake of playing it safe, students won’t have a reason to choose your college over another. Be the one that stands out – the one that students choose.