Monday, May 16, 2016

Focused Brand Messaging

I am in the middle of a brand positioning project for a business school. In looking at competitors' websites, I am amazed at how disjointed their brand messages are. Here are some examples:

  • School A: Our students learn, intern, participate in community service, and advance their careers through a full spectrum of field-focused and multidisciplinary departments in one of the nation’s oldest business schools. By combining the resources of a large university with small class sizes and highly individualized attention, our students experience the best of both worlds. At our school, you’re part of a diverse, collaborative community. One that keeps you closely connected to classmates, professors and alumni while emphasizing experiential learning and global outreach in the international marketplace. With state-of-the-art facilities and access to university resources, our education provides the tools to help you excel in the classroom and prepare for a promising career.
  • School B: Our School of Business is among the nation's select institutions to obtain accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) in addition to the university's overall accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Our school is different—and that’s the way we like it. Our undergraduate business majors and graduate business programs stand out because they are designed to meet the targeted needs of the world's most innovative companies. These companies seek out employees who can think across traditional boundaries, merging solid business know-how with insight into engineering, global supply chain management, information systems and more.
  • School C:  Today's business world demands a tougher kind of preparation. Get your degree from a school that offers it. At our business school, we have a curriculum grounded in analytics and economics. Our approach provides you with enduring frameworks for solving problems and making decisions in today's data-rich environment. Our expert faculty is here to coach you and develop you so that you are ready for the future of business. Our mission is to advance the understanding and practice of management through rigorous thought leadership. Our faculty will produce groundbreaking ideas having cross-functional impact on management theory and practice. Our graduates will be highly sought after for their cutting-edge solutions to complex management issues and for leading organizations to innovate, grow, and deliver world-class performance. And our school will be known for understanding the power of markets and the role of entrepreneurs in creating values and improving society. 
  • School D: Since 1923, our school has built an impressive reputation as one of the best schools of business in the world. The comprehensive range of our academic portfolio, the expertise of our faculty and the worldwide success of our graduates are the primary reasons for our school's acclaim. In an increasingly global business environment, the diversity of our programs and our international reputation help ensure that our school's degree is a credential that opens doors for our graduates at any business anywhere in the world. Our mission is to advance the practice of management within a global context, through scholarly research, education and professional and community service. 
  • School E: The programs at our school are known - and respected - for preparing job-ready career-focused students who possess an understanding of current business theories; the talent to maximize the practical applications of those theories; the ready-and-able spirit to adapt to a rapidly changing global economy; and the personal drive to succeed as ethically responsible managers and professionals. By the end of the decade, we will be a widely recognized college in the Northeast Region that enriches student character and deepens intellectual inquiry to prepare men and women for success in a complex and diverse global community.

So, what are some of the benefits outlined in these business school descriptions?
  • Our school is fully accredited
  • We are one of the nation's oldest business schools
  • Our school has an outstanding reputation
  • We offer small classes in a large university setting
  • We provide a state-of-the-art learning environment
  • We provide our students with hands-on educational experiences
  • We teach business analytics
  • We teach our students how to solve complex problems
  • Our programs are designed to meet company needs
  • We create career-focused, job-ready students
  • Our students are some of the most respected by employers
  • Our school's degree opens doors
  • We have a superior job placement rate
  • We teach our students entrepreneurship
  • We prepare our students to be leaders
  • We teach our students how to promote and manage innovation
  • We prepare our students for a global economy
  • We offer a wide range of courses
  • Our students can also learn about engineering, information systems and global supply chain management
  • We help our students think outside of traditional academic boundaries
  • We offer our students a multi-disciplinary education

Which of these benefits really matter? Which are unique (versus 'cost of entry') benefits? Which are powerful enough to cause a purchase decision (school matriculation)? Which are clear and easy to understand? Which are supported by multiple "proof points" and "reasons to believe"? Which are strong enough to be able to stand on their own? Which can a specific school claim as its own to great advantage?

Another way to evaluate these statements is to ask these questions:
  • Which of these statements seems generic?
  • Which of these statements could apply to more than one school?
  • Which of these statements is highly focused?
  • Which of these statements is energizing?
  • Which of these statements is memorable?

Brand positioning is mostly about focus. Are you focusing on a unique and highly compelling benefit to the target customer? Do you offer multiple "proof points" for and "reasons to believe" that brand benefit? Is your message clear and is it compelling? 


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