Just like other organizations in other industries, institutions of higher learning need to compete in order to survive. But because of the fear of sounding too corporate, universities often hesitant to borrow proven methods from business, or are late to the game. Branding is a case in point. At the turn of the century, universities started to dip their toes in the branding waters. Many of the early approaches focused on creating new taglines, changing logos and spending a great deal of money on advertising. Those attempts reinforced the skepticism that many stakeholders had about branding, especially the faculties.
Today universities realize that in order address affordability, competition, innovation, equality, employability, divestment, funding and other issues that challenge their image and future, universities need to embrace an approach based on mission and core values. They need to adopt an approach that focuses on culture and stakeholders. They need to stand for something. They need to be authentic. This approach aligns the internal culture and external reputation of the university, and ensures sustainability.
It’s vitally important that universities in the Middle East and specifically in GCC understand the value of owning a brand and how the brand reflects the institution, students and recruitment processes. Today there are many great local universities in Saudi Arabia such as Effat, Dar Al Hekma and King Saud. They are all considered reputable, but even reputable universities need to connect their missions and their core values to their stakeholders.
Rex Whisman is the Founder and Chief Strategist at BrandED Consultants Group that guides organizations/institutions beyond logos, taglines and Advertising campaigns. In the last 25 years, he has held many senior-level positions in Branding, Communications, Engagement and Marketing, on both the institution and consultant sides
Said Baaghil is the ‘Unconventional’ Branding and Marketing Adviser to reputable companies in the Middle East, an author of many reputable books including the ‘The Power of Belonging’ and a Speaker. Baaghil appeared in books published by America’s experts on Branding and Marketing such as Dan Hill and Libby Gill. Most recently Baaghil was interviewed by world renowned Brand Consultancy firm Siegel+Gale on Branding in the Middle East