Building a healthy brand 


Building a healthy brand isn’t about chasing trends or joining in on the current craze. Healthy brands can’t cleanse their way to top-of-mind awareness. There’s no crash-diet for growing the enrollment funnel — no superfood that promises a higher conversion rate. The only regimen that guarantees long-term brand health is a balanced diet and regular exercise. 

In higher education, we often see marketing investment behind enrollment, advancement, and individual unit activities. These areas can even compete internally (for resources) and externally (for attention). 

But when it comes to your brand, it’s like deciding between crossfit, running, or yoga. All three are valuable for building a strong, healthy brand, but only when they’re working together and complementing one another. Doing all three at the same time is not going to get you the results you want.

Here’s what you can do to ensure you’re working toward optimal brand health.

Avoid sugar and caffeine 

I know – this is tough. We all need that jolt from our morning coffee. However, consider this.

If your brand is measuring effectiveness in the form of reach, impressions, likes, shares, and #noms, then it’s likely that you’re playing the short-term game. It’s like brand candy – instant gratification followed by a quick crash. 

It’s okay to have this as part of your diet – your marketing mix – but you can’t rely on it to build a brand that endures. 

Make sure your of-the-moment content is balanced with wholesome nutrition. Photos of your beautifully landscaped building, inspirational quotes, and national pizza day posts are great, and should pair well with a few servings of student outcomes, culture, innovative practices, and research breakthroughs. 

Exercise consistently and with intention

For many organizations, their core message gets lost in the sheer volume of things that need to be said. At best, this conveys a sense of scale and breadth, but what’s more likely is that it creates a room full of distracting content that isn’t useful. Think about it – you might walk into a gym and be blown away by how big it is and how many different ways you can pedal an exercise bike, but how many of those machines do you actually use? 

It’s a matter of focusing your workout – a.k.a. your marketing. Your brand will be at peak performance when it has definition, flexibility, rest, and a clear end goal. 

Your marketing is what keeps your brand in shape. Every piece of content should be working toward your end goal, no matter where in the organization it’s coming from. 

When was the last time you took a step back and evaluated every activity your brand participates in? Are all the activities working together? Are there pieces that need some new thinking or even cut from the routine, like that P90X DVD? 

Make a list before you head to the market

Let’s say, on Sunday you meal-plan for a week of wholesome, nutritious dinners — that’s your strategy. Next, you assemble the plan and list all the ingredients, like channels, touchpoints, messages, and creative assets — all in support of building a healthy brand. Now you’re ready to go to market, with a focused plan that saves you time and money. This can help you steer clear of the sugar and caffeine we talked about earlier. 

With all the ingredients now in your kitchen, Thursday night dinner prep becomes much easier because you’ve already made the tough decisions — you know exactly what to do, and you have everything you need to do it. Now, you can focus on getting the little things right that make all the difference in your user experience, like deciding between a velvety red, or a crisp white.

With a clearly defined brand platform, marketing decisions become easier, faster, and more effective because they’re working together to advance the brand toward its goals.