Picture this: You walk into a heart surgeon's office complaining of some discomfort in the centre of your chest, including a cold sweat and some light-headedness.
The surgeon comments on how often she sees problems like this and explains that they want to do several tests on you, starting with an electrocardiogram, some blood tests, a nuclear scan and maybe a coronary angiography -- there's no room for guesswork here!
After a few minutes thought you deny her request, believing that all you need are a few Mylanta tablets for your heartburn...they worked in the past.
Now picture this: The surgeon doesn't go through with her professional instinct, instead she gives you a box of Mylanta -- let's face it -- a box of Mylanta is a lot cheaper and less time consuming than open heart surgery.
A month later, in the comfort of your home, you die from cardiac arrest with half-a-packet of Mylanta tablets firmly grasped in your hand.
Self-diagnsosis -- it's the leading cause of most brand failures
Early in my career one of my bosses used to spit out an annoying phrase whenever he heard somebody use the word 'assume'. He used to say "When you assume; you make an ASS out of U and ME".
Those are wise, infuriating words because they are true. Assumptions are sand. Facts are granite. You can build an education brand on assumptions, just like you can build a house on sand. It may last a while, but you can bet that it will fall when hardship strikes.
When an manager of a college asks for help with their lack of sales, flagging student applications or bad press it's usually tied to their brand. They don't realise that their brand is expressed in their day-to-day interactions and then echoed in their marketing efforts, often poorly.
If you get your brand wrong, everything will be wrong. Be it your website, marketing material, phone manner, messaging -- it all stems from your brand core.
Once things start heading south the 'team' starts self-diagnosing. They'll often believe the problem stems from their logo, their website or a particular marketing piece and that the fix should be either a new brochure, redecorated website or refreshed logo. In some cases this is all that needs tweaking. In many cases they don't see the wall they're about to hit head-on.
Sick cycle carousel
It's rare that the logo, brand and photography are up to scratch in education brands. Occasionally you may come across that. However, in many cases what is missing is the strategy on how, when and why you should use it.
The three foundational errors that self-diagnosers make:
1) they form opinions that are fuelled by...
2) ...assumptions. Then rush to...
3) ...treat the symptom(s).
When treating the symptom(s) doesn't work, they form more opinions based on more assumptions which then cause more symptoms...ad infinitum.
Just because you're the boss, doesn't mean you understand your brand!
There are college masters and managers that are uncomfortable talking about the underlying assumptions that their institution has been built on. We're talking 'foolish man built his house upon the sand' kind of stuff!
These foundational errors ricochet through their brand so much so, that they end up either attracting the wrong type of student OR chasing away the right type of student -- sometimes both!
When you build an institution on faulty foundations it is expensive to fix, for the simple reason that a lot of time, money, material and assumptions have gone into building the swaying monstrosity. The assumptions are often 'guiding' every business decision from that point on. Remove one assumption and the whole lot comes down.
Many managers believe that skimping on the foundation at the start will save them money. It's easy to be lulled into a false-sense-of-security by looking at what your competitors are doing and then assuming that it will work for you too.
It's sad that some education institutes are committed to developing the next generation of thinkers, yet are too scared to apply robust thinking to what they deliver and how they express that. Instead they're content to do something for no other reason than 'that's the way we've always done it'.
Surely there needs to be some leadership by example?
A word of warning
After you've completed your research and implemented your strategy, don't put somebody in charge of the brand that doesn't understand why strategy always trumps opinion.
A strong brand keeper is somebody who uses strategy to overcome personal opinion. A brand keeper will forever be receiving opinions on the "right" direction to take. A strong brand keeper understands who the institution is and can back it up with fact and experience.
You're only as strong as your weakest link.
An entire brand can unravel if you don't have the right person looking after it.