What does Tom Peters Brand U mean for HE?

With the Times Higher Ed running a seminar on Brand U HE, I was reminded of Tom Peters work on Brand U almost 20 years ago.  At the time, Tom Peters was writing about personal branding and wrote, “Ask yourself ‘What is it that my product or service does that makes it different?  Give yourself the traditional 15-word-or-less contest challenge.  Take the time to write down your answer.  And then take the time to read it.  Several times’”.

In our work with business schools and universities, I’ve often quoted the words above and challenged those responsible for marketing, branding and communications to write that 15-word sentence for their institution.  It’s not always straightforward.

Take Tom Peters further comments and adapt them for the higher education marketplace, and you end up with something like this, “If your answer wouldn’t light up the eyes of a prospective student or command a vote of confidence from an alumnus, or - worst of all - if it doesn’t grab you, then you’ve got a big problem”.

With 15,000 business schools globally, the need to have a clearly differentiated offer has never been greater for school’s seeking to attract students, faculty and businesses, as well as building an alumni relationship.  Writing in the THE in 2013, Ian Pearman, CEO, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, clearly set out the value of branding, “Wherever the target audience of an organisation faces a choice of alternative competitors, branding is incredibly important for justifying price, avoiding commoditisation, attracting and retaining talent and ultimately, resisting rivals”.


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