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Three and a Tree: How to Take Down Bad University Marketing One Cliché at a Time Paperback – November 13, 2012
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With a scholar's appetite for research, keen analytical skills and passion for vigorous and respectful debate, the team at 160over90 has unleashed their creative talents to address the lessons learned through their branding adventures in higher education. A fun and worthy read for anyone looking to unlock the heart and soul of their institution. --Rhea Turteltaub, Vice Chancellor of External Affairs, UCLA
If everyone throughout our university isn't speaking with one voice our message can't be heard. The processes outlined in this book served us well as we transformed our school into a branding powerhouse. --Dr. Daniel J. Curran, President, University of Dayton
Three and a Tree only begins to describe the clichés that riddle higher ed work. This book is a funny, but super informative, look into how to begin looking at your job completely differently. --Don Bishop, Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment, University of Notre Dame
About the Author
160over90 is a branding firm headquartered in Philadelphia, with higher education clients including Michigan State University, UCLA, The University of Notre Dame, Cornell University, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, as well as consumer clients such as Nike, the Miami Dolphins, Mercedes-Benz, and American Eagle Outfitters. The work of the firm's clients has been featured in The New York Times, ABC News, USA Today, NPR, Forbes, and the BBC. 160over90 has also received numerous CASE, UCDA, ADDY, and Admissions Advertising Awards, and speaks regularly at industry conferences.
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Like similar books that focus on marketing higher education, however, the authors do not seem to understand the discipline of marketing. Instead, they equate marketing with communication. While both marketing and communications very often have some of the same end goal(s), they are very distinct from one another.
Marketing focuses on the 4Ps (product, place, price, and promotion). "Three and a Tree" focuses almost entirely on promotion. Marketing strategy always begins with an assessment of customers (e.g., prospective students, current students, prospective new faculty, donors, stakeholders), competitors, and costs (often referred to as the 3C's of marketing). When this assessment is complete, the next task is to Segment the marketing, set Targeting goals based on the organization resources and ability to reach the target, and then Position the products/services relative to competing offerings (referred to as the STP process). In many instances the channel (place) of delivery of the academic offering (e.g., online) is crucially important to the target market (e.g., adult learners). Many prospective students are interested in the value proposition - meaning that tuition and fees (i.e., price) are reasonable relative the quality of the degree program(s) being offered. The 4Ps must be integrated into the message to be as effective as possible. Promotion will only take an institution so far with respect to connecting with potential students.
There is one section in the book that discusses agency selection; there is an assumption that an external agency must be hired to develop an effective marketing strategy for higher education. I disagree. In my experience, one group of experts almost always ignored by administrators are the marketing faculty members at their university. Most marketing faculty have real world experience, are often on retainer with major companies, and/or are working on consulting gigs while employed at the university. A benefit of using internal marketing faculty members to develop a university marketing strategy is that they are already familiar with (1) the university, (2) the students the institution is intending to target, and (3) the current processes already being used to market the university. Interestingly, I have found that many marketing and communications professionals working at a university are intimidated by marketing faculty members. Who trained the folks working at the agencies? In my opinion, universities should exploit their own internal resources before considering hiring an agency.
For years agencies have wished there was a book that explained to clients what they needed to know to do their jobs effectively. Not the number crunching and spreadsheet-reading they learn in b-school, and not the "what will it take to put you behind the wheel" gusto they hone as salespeople. And neither, it should be noted, training in how to be the patsies of any creative director with an expense account and a dream.
Instead, something that would introduce them to what they should be thinking about when they engage an agency. That would prepare them for the kinds of issues that always arise when creating a campaign - politically, financially, creatively, strategically, and every other way. Something that would help them not try to be creative directors or sales people or analysts but instead really good, you know clients.
And that, whether they know it or not, is exactly what 160over90, a branding agency in Philadelphia, have done.
To be clear, "Three and a Tree" is (to read the rest of this review, please visit theagencyreview.wordpress.com/three-and-a-tree)