How Brand Awareness Increases Leads for Enrollment

Today’s higher institutions are working in a crowded space and must be creative when it comes to differentiating themselves from other schools. Thanks to changes in the economy, increased competition and higher demands from students, colleges and universities have shifted some of their attention toward building a better brand. Rather than allocating the bulk of their marketing budget toward direct response campaigns, some of it is being reallocated to branding.

Why Branding Matters

Why is branding so important for your college or university?

It’s great because it separates your school from the pack. It gets people talking about your college or university, the programs you offer and the people who went there. It creates positive feelings toward your school and gives prospects the reassurance they need to at least pursue your program. Most importantly, brand awareness increases leads for enrollment.

Before you start adjusting your budget to go toward branding, keep in mind that you don’t want to go from one extreme to the next. A few years back, schools aligned their budgets primarily with direct response campaigns, but now things are shifting toward branding again. Use your budget wisely so that both direct response and branding play their part in cultivating interest, generating leads and getting students to act on your goals.

Let’s take a look at how you can lead your enrollment goals through brand awareness.

Expand Your Reach

When you expand your reach, there’s always a chance that you’ll be reaching out to leads that may not convert. That’s why focusing your attention on branding and inbound marketing efforts is better in the short term than the long term. Yet you still need to find a way to connect with students who are just beginning to research their options but have no clue as to what they want. Putting your brand out there gets these students acquainted with your program. Just remember not to sacrifice quantity for quality.

Tell Your Story

As you begin to weed through the prospects that may be interested in your program, share your unique story and further nurture relationships with potential future students. Telling your story differentiates you from your competitors and connects prospects to your school. Dig deep and think of some of the things that make your college or university unique. You’d be surprised by what makes people feel connected to brands: a controversial history, a strong community focus or a desire to help the less fortunate, for example.

Share Your Values

Each higher institution is founded on a different set of morals and values. It’s important to share your unique philosophy with future students because your school is ultimately more than just a place to open a book. Your school is the place where students will start their independent lives, attain a quality education, expand personal relationships, develop professional connections and enhance their well being. Students want to enjoy these experiences on a campus that aligns with their values.

Create a Slogan

Many colleges and universities have a slogan that defines them. A few taglines from college campaigns are,  “A foundation for life,” “Your revolution starts here” and “Minds in the making.” Create your own catchy slogan that aligns with your brand, and make sure it appeals to the college audience. Too many college slogans are predictable and boring, and they don’t stand out to young adults. If you want prospective college students to recognize your brand, you need a fun, catchy slogan that is honest but doesn’t over-promise.

Get Personal

As you nurture relationships with prospective students, you’ll want to personalize your interactions with them whenever possible. Of course you can personalize your email marketing strategy or target your social media campaigns, but don’t forget the basic essence of being personal: face to face interaction. List photos of your staff and faculty on your website. Host webinars or hangouts where prospects can meet people from your school. Humans like to see other humans, so this interaction adds personality to your brand.

Establish Trust

Many college graduates live paycheck to paycheck. The majority are forced to move back home. Most take on significant debt. When you consider what an investment college is, it’s understandable that students need to fully trust the school they apply to. By improving your branding strategy, you’re starting to form this trust right off the bat. But you need to find other ways to strengthen this trust. One of the best ways to do this is by sharing stories from past alumni and providing updated statistics on what students do after college. If a student feels that they can trust you to deliver an exceptional education that will help land them a job, you will earn the ultimate trust.

Be Consistent

Take a fresh look at your marketing materials and ask yourself if they are consistent. Would you be able to tell that your materials all came from your college or university? Does your name and logo appear consistent? Many schools have guidelines when it comes to marketing their brand such as the font, colors and spacing on materials and signage, so if you don’t have guidelines written up, now is a good time to do so. Without consistency, prospective students will be confused and unable to recognize your brand.


Both branding and direct response marketing have their place in an overall online marketing strategy. Currently, the focus is shifting to branding as today’s higher institutions realize that they must have a trusted brand name that instills positive feelings in students. Fortunately, you can cultivate the meaningful leads your school needs to thrive by increasing brand awareness, strengthening relationships and establishing trust.