Your brand :​)​
The power of the first impression

You know your institution is special. It has a mission, a vision, a purpose and personality all its own. It shapes students’ worldviews and skills in a way that is unique. But while your school’s one-of-a-kind nature may be very clear to you, it won’t help attract many new students unless that uniqueness is clear to them as well.

Your school has more competition now, from more places, than ever before. So communicating your institution’s brand to prospective students is your number one job. Here are some suggestions on how to do that in a way that will resonate with the upper end of Generation Z.

  1. Understand your brand and what makes you unique. Don’t just rest on what you already know. Ask yourself the tough question: What truly differentiates my school from all the rest? This is a big topic, and we’ve discussed it quite a bit in an earlier post. It’s important to keep asking yourself, your peers, and your current and prospective students what really distinguishes your school from its competitors…and why that difference matters to them.
  2. Determine how your brand fits what today’s students are looking for (see our previous post) and how to articulate your brand within that context. Generation Z students prioritize choosing schools that promise them the best employability in their fields of interest after graduation. They also want flexible learning opportunities, individualized attention, and reassurance that they’ll feel at home. As The Guardian also notes in its own Higher Education blog, “Universities that find a way to make prospective students feel they will fit in will go far in recruiting them. This means big marketing ideas which resonate with the current nuances and influences of student culture.”
  3. Figure out how to communicate your brand quickly – because you only have a few seconds to capture prospective students’ attention and imagination. Today’s prospective students use Google to find the answers to many of life’s big questions – including where they should go to school. And since every question generates a million hits, it’s imperative for them to skim efficiently. In the blink of an eye, those students will decide which colleges are worth researching further and which ones are not. Be sure you make it onto their short list.
  4. Express your brand effectively and consistently everywhere – in all your admissions materials, on your website, and on social media. You don’t know what each student’s first exposure to your brand is going to be. Or how many touchpoints it will take for them to give you serious consideration. So wherever and whenever they hear about you, make sure they’re getting the message you want them to receive.
  5. Your brand must feel authentic and emotional – not like a marketing campaign. More so than any previous generation, today’s students are extremely brand wary, and adept at distinguishing facts from hype. “Gen Zers are highly skeptical and will quickly fact-check the authenticity of marketing efforts,” writes the National Center for Business Journalism. “Colleges are recognizing this trend by cutting down on flashy advertising and providing prospective students with more opportunities to talk to current students.” So the more credible, down-to-earth, and human your appeal, the better. And the more your brand positioning is supported by what your current students are actually saying about you, the more it will be believed and appreciated.

Do these suggestions resonate with your experience? Do you have additional thoughts on garnering interest from prospective Generation Z college students? We’d love to hear from you. Chime in at #TalkBacke.

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Backe is a digital marketing and brand communications agency, focused on creating smart, beautiful and strategically-driven work. We build communities, relationships, and meaningful connections.