What a Powerful Moat the Harvard Brand is...


As of early February 2019, we can report that Harvard has received a total of  43,330 to the Class of 2023. Just last year Harvard broke its own 40,000 application barrier for the first time.

The school received the most applications in its history all while it defends its admissions practices in federal court against allegations of racial discrimination.

What a powerful moat the Harvard brand is...

Nevertheless, Harvard University continues to spend heavily on marketing and branding efforts.
In 2016 alone, tax filings indicate that Harvard spent over $16 million on advertising. To give you some perspective this is enough to buy three 30-second primetime spots on the Super Bowl broadcast.


School branding is a never-ending balancing act. If you don't manage your school's reputation, your community will do it for you.
While the Harvard brand may be exceedingly powerful, it still has to adapt to a continuously shifting market of college students.
It has to reposition popular classes, promote less-emphasized programs and appeal to fresh student demographics.

With the exception of a handful of pioneers like Harvard, most colleges have yet to warm up to school branding.
They have traditionally focused mostly on curriculum and student outcomes. But due to increasing competition and decreasing college-aged populations, they are all starting to make the strongest possible case for themselves.

At Enrollhand, we've been paying very close attention to the higher education arena since 2014. College branding has moved at a faster pace than K-12 schools and offers an abundance of enrollment strategies and marketing best practices to 'steal' from.


Is Bʀᴀɴᴅɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴇ Sᴀᴍᴇ ᴀs Rᴇᴘᴜᴛᴀᴛɪᴏɴ Mᴀɴᴀɢᴇᴍᴇɴᴛ?

According to Jeff Bezos, the founder & CEO of Amazon "Your brand is what people say when you leave the room."
So brand and reputation are not synonyms but are certainly tightly linked. Both are shaped by communication, and both seek to improve perceptions.
They are slightly different in that branding functions as a multiplier.
It generates differentiation and attraction.
Reputation, on the other hand, is the sum-total of your school's track record; your decisions, your outcomes, your actions and statements to date.


So you invest in your school brand to get a return, you protect your reputation to preserve credibility and trust.
While the two are similar, you could say that brand is proactive while reputation is defensive.
In short, your brand is your promise, and your reputation is how your school delivers against that promise.

How do you take control of your school's reputation?

STEP 1: Pᴀʀᴇɴᴛ Dɪsᴄᴏᴠᴇʀʏ Sᴜʀᴠᴇʏs
You have to start by understanding what your parent audience thinks, defining what you want them to think and feel, and then developing a communication system to close that gap.

STEP 2: Mᴇssᴀɢɪɴɢ ᴠɪᴀ ᴛʜᴇ 5 P's
The second step is to break down your school's brand/reputation into a coherent message:

  • Promise: What you say you will do for your audiences
  • Position: What differentiates you from your peers
  • Personality: How you deliver your education
  • Permission What your school should and should not do
  • Permanence: The essential attributes of your school's brand

Remember that your brand message must be overlapping or at least closely tied to your school's mission, vision and strategy imperatives.

STEP 3: Exᴇᴄᴜᴛɪᴏɴ
Finally, once you have broken down your brand into its component parts, you have to develop a project execution plan that fits your budget.
This may include adjusting, improving and/or aligning your:

  • Visual Identity
  • Paid advertising
  • Website
  • Online Communications
  • Print Communications
  • Community Outreach
  • Public Relations
  • Social Media
  • Physical Spaces

In our fast-moving and chaotic world, it matters more than ever that social change-makers, such as educators, learn how to cut through the noise and get other people to pay attention to their causes.

Want to learn how to build a compelling school brand? A brand identity that will get parents to sit up, pay attention, and feel connected...