A very dynamic marketing environment shapes our work in Marketing and Communications. The last six-plus years have seen the emergence of new media and technology that have been changing how most of us live our lives and how we consume products. As a result, we now have technology-empowered and information-seeking consumers who use technology and media in searching for information about products, including colleges and universities.
Consequently, marketing theory has been going through major changes. Consumers are now empowered with information and expect “now.” They expect information about our university and programs on the many platforms and channels they use in their daily lives, be it website, social media, or college search engines.
In the past, marketing was largely about what’s called “outbound” or “push” marketing--media advertising that was pushed out to consumers (e.g., radio and TV advertising). Now, consumers are not only in control of their college search, they are increasingly irritated by such interruptions.
While outbound marketing still plays a role, marketing today is largely about "inbound marketing" and "content marketing" that seeks to provide content about products and services wherever consumers are seeking it.
Paid, Owned, and Earned Media
In 2012, Jeremiah Owyang, then of the Altimeter Group, and Rebecca Lieb published an Altimeter Group report, Converged Media: How Brands Must Combine Paid, Owned, and Earned Media.
In this diagram from the Converged Media report:
- Paid media is traditional and digital advertising.
- Owned media is all the content we produce on various platforms and in multiple media.
- Shared media is organically produced and shared by our audiences and markets, separate from us, and as they interact with our content and other content in social media.
The Converged Media report summarizes:
Consumer behavior is undergoing a rapid change. The person who surfed the web, today moves quickly across an impressive array of screens, sites, channels, and devices, often simultaneously, or very near so. Logos pervade consumers’ lives, from the programs they watch to the billboards they pass, to the clothing they wear. The average person sees some 3,000 brand impressions every day.
The media and information they consume might originate in traditional media, social media, advertising, or with increasing frequency, a hybrid of all three. Consumers rarely pause to take note. Media are a veritable blur. The primary quest is for information, entertainment, or shopping.
For marketers, the goal is to find the “right “ media, be it paid, owned, or earned, along this highly dynamic customer journey.
Brands are challenged to intercept this elusive customer and cut through the media clutter, regardless of whatever channel or medium consumers are engaged with.
Converged media will happen and is happening. If marketers do not take action, the effectiveness of their marketing efforts will suffer.
As a Marketing and Communications team we understand that we’re in the content business. Our job is to create and deliver paid, owned and earned content that will cut through the media clutter and engage the consumer.
In a graduate/adult college search market where, according to Google, 61% of website visitors take at least 30 days to convert (fill out an inquiry form), and 53% take at least 60 days, and in a traditional undergraduate market that is months and years long,
- our owned content must attract and sustain interest while our prospects go through the “highly dynamic customer journey” we call the college search process.
- And if our branding is authentic, our earned content will be supporting what our owned content says about us,
- while our paid content will be reminding prospects about our brand and driving new prospects to our content.
Brand and Identity
Because of this market environment, it is imperative that Concordia University Irvine work to increase brand recognition. As prospective students begin their college search, it’s vital that they have heard of our brand, and/or can find information about us.
But what do we mean by "brand?" And what's the difference between our brand and our identity?
Brand – It’s externally focused. It’s what your customers (e.g., students, prospective students, alumni) have experienced you to be, or heard you to be.
Branding – Based on market research, the process of strategically communicating product, brand, identity, etc. to market segments based on what is important to each segment. For students and alumni, branding may simply reinforce what they’ve experienced you to be. For others, branding plays a role to introduce your brand, reinforce its reputation or to work against a negative reputation.
Institutional Identity – It’s who we say we are at our core. It’s internally focused and developed to guide the institution as it carries out its mission.
Think Student Experience
Identity shouts from our hillside campus, “this is who we are!” Branding connects that identity to markets by connecting the dots between the student experience we offer and our Lutheran identity.
In other words, we can’t just talk about who we are. Just saying we're Lutheran isn't enough. Many prospective students don't know what that means. Instead, we need to let prospective students know how our identity will make a difference to their college experience.
And because identity, brand, and the student experience involve both logic and emotion, we want to tell stories that connect with the head and the heart. Thus, we value storytelling. We tell stories about the Core, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, and our commitment to help students develop their gifts so that we let students know how our identity is experienced.