Getting (creatively) trendy with Higher Education


By Jon Windeatt

From a creative point of view, education is a funny old sector. It’s crowded, competitive, and home to hundreds of institutions, all trying to sell largely the same thing to largely the same people.

With this in mind, you’d think that education marketing would be a hotbed of creative innovation. Well, apart from a few pockets of excellence, it isn’t. Or, at least, it hasn’t been. But things are starting to change. What things? These things.

It’s all gone a bit brandy

This is the biggest one, and it’s not that surprising. After all, tuition fees have put a university education in the same price bracket as a fairly fancy car – and we all know how much effort they put into their brands.

Universities have woken up to the power and importance of branding. They’re thinking like advertising agencies, and they’re putting more people and resources behind their brands. You can see the effects right across the sector. In terms of both visuals and messages, things are getting more consistent, more eye-catching, and more meaningful.

Personality counts

Turns out your mum was right – what’s inside does matter. In a market where differentiation is a massive deal, personality is a great way to set a university apart. So universities are giving more thought to bringing their culture through in how they look, sound, and communicate.

Communications are getting creative (1)

As well as changing how they look and sound, institutions are exploring how they get all this across. Digital comms are, of course, featuring more. At the same time, some universities are rediscovering the power of a personal communication plopping onto a doormat. Some are toying with experiential installations. And many are putting more thought into the experience offered by their open days.

Communications are getting creative (2)

Universities are also getting savvier about when and where their marketing appears. Rather than putting everything they want to say out there all at once, they’re being more strategic – sending out shorter, sharper and more relevant messages to the right people at just the right time.

Content is on the up

Content marketing is getting bigger and bigger, with unis looking past copy-heavy posts and instead using social sites to push content. We’re seeing more video on more platforms too. As a result, content is getting more engaging and accessible – all good stuff when it comes to the widening participation agenda.

Of course, this isn’t the whole picture. There’s other stuff too – like prospectuses being supplemented by digital content, and the rise of the brand ambassador – but we’ve already taken up too much of your time.

To sum up all of the above, universities are thinking more creatively about how, what, why and where they communicate. And this, for creative agencies like us, is all very exciting.