26: Building a New Brand Architecture at Indiana University w/ Dr. Rob Zinkan

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Dr. Rob Zinkan, Associate Vice President for Marketing at Indiana University discusses the pros and cons of a branded house vs. a house of brands approach to brand architecture in higher education, and why we should consider thinking of colleges and universities more like cities than corporations.

First and foremost, that brand strategyis simply difficult, and higher education and brand architecture is especially complex because collegesand universities are inherently complex. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment attheir college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategiesor tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get intothe show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. I'm miracles and AVP ofmarketing at Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Rob Sincoen, Associate VicePresident for marketing at Indiana University. Rob, welcome to the show. Thanks,Eric. Great to be with you and thanks for all the great contentthat you share via this podcast. Thank you for being a listener. I'mreally excited about our conversation today about a...

...new way to think about brand architectureand higher education. Before we dig into that, rob, can you givethe listeners a little bit better understanding of both Indiana University and your role?They're great. Indiana University is among the nation's top public universities and we arehome to a number of world class academic schools, including business and music,also the world's first school of Philanthropy, the Nations First School of Informatics andthe largest medical school. We enroll more than a hundred ten thousand students acrossseven campuses, including almost fiftyzero at our big ten campus in Bloomington, andwe are planning for our bicentennial coming up in two thousand and twenty. Iserve in as system wide role, as you mentioned, as Associate Vice Presidentfor marketing and a fortunate to work with an outstanding team to help the universitystrategic priorities. The three main parts of my portfolio our first, brand strategy. We have developed and deployed the university's brand strategy and now our team isconstantly working to measure and optimize second,...

...serving as the marketing lead or liaisonto our flagship campus leadership and marketing community, as we have marketing and communications professionalspread throughout the campus. And then third, leading our full service internalmarketing agency that does a variety of work across our institution. Awesome, robto to start this conversation about brand architecture and Higher Ed. Can you giveus a little background on a branded house versus a house of brands approach,and why? Basic Marketing Efficiency tends to side with that branded house model.Definitely. A branded house leverages a single master brand or parent brand across anentire organization and the organization's multiple offerings. Common examples would be apple, Fedex, BMW. You so the Apple Watch, for example, leverages the equity ofthe apple brand with a house of brands. In contrast, you essentiallyhave standalone brands. The classic example here is proctor and gamble, and it'smany independent brands, everything from Jillette,...

...old spice and Pampers to tide crestand Mr Clean. The individual brands do the heavy lifting there. You maynot even realize the association with PNG because it's not visible. PG is notplaying a lead role to lend equity to those independent brands. And you're exactlyright, Eric. For Higher Education, in nearly all cases a branded houseis preferred. It is much more efficient to build and maintain a single masterbrand than a house of separate brands, and efficiency is such a critical factorin a sector that is, on average, not investing massive amounts of dollars intomarketing compared to other sectors. Large Public Universities, for instance, maynot even spend one percent of their annual operating budget on marketing. A brandedhouse approach provides the opportunity to generate needed synergy and clarity, clarity for theorganization and clarity for your audiences. However,...

I should say that a branded houseis much easier said than done. It's really hard to achieve a brandedhouse and higher education, where you often have a culture of decentralization and decentralizedstructures thanks to responsibility, centered management, budgeting systems and many other factors.So it conferences. When I ask hired colleagues at your institution how many ofyou aspire to be a branded house, nearly every hand goes up. Yeah, but then when I ask how many of your institutions actually function as abranded house, of course only a handful of hands go up. I loveit, love it. Rob You've written about how focus and differentiation are someof the keys to strong higher ad branding. Does that imply that there are somestrong benefits of that house of brands model and high red in order tospecifically highlight those differentiations? I'm not necessarily I wouldn't say that that it impliesthat house of brands would be the way...

...to go necessarily. I think itimplies, first and foremost that brand strategy is simply difficult, and higher educationand brand architecture is especially complex, because colleges and universities are inherently complex,and I think it explains why universities can find themselves in a house of brandspredicament and in terms of focus. Successful brands, especially corporate examples, arefocused. Higher Education missions, though, are not focused. There are multiprompedand wide ranging. Our academic affairs, because decative vice president often says thatgreat universities are great because they do a great many things, and I couldn'tagree more. That's absolutely the case, but it's also what makes it reallyhard to be focused. And these complexities take place no matter where you are, not just large publics. You could be at a smaller school or youcould be the marketing director at the academic unit level and you're still dealing withdepartment, centers, institutes and other entities...

...within your school. I do thinkit's helpful to look back at the origin of these terms branded house and houseof brands and the seminal work that David Ocker and Eric Yokam staller did backin two thousand they develop the brand relationship spectrum, with a branded house atone end of the spectrum and a house of brands at the other end.And we need to keep in mind that it's supposed to be a spectrum.It's not the either or proposition that we often make of it, that you'reeither a you're either a branded house or you're a house of brands. And, by the way, the authors even acknowledge that a perfect branded house wasextremely difficult. So within that spectrum there are a variety of ways to describethe relationship between a company's multiple offerings and what role, if any, themaster brand plays. So in higher education, a single college or university could actuallyland in multiple spots on that spectrum,...

...all at the same time trying tojustify that house of brands model for those listening hoping that that you dobecause they come from that kind of institution. When I think about institutions where aschool within the institution may have as strong brand recognition as the institution itself, I think arguably a few business schools come close. I think of Wharton, Kellog booths loan. Are there other examples where a school has a strongeror differentiated enough brand to justify that house of brands model better. I certainlythink there are examples in and you went to where I think what comes tomind first business schools, and some of those, just as you've said Eric, have become strong name brands, and the Wharton School that example. It'sbeen around with that name since the late eighteen hundreds and obviously has built significantbrand equity. So you can occasionally defend an individual outlier to that branded housemodel, but it's challenging to defend the house of brands approach as an institutionalstrategy. If a college or university operates...

...as a house of brands, it'slikely because they've organically slipped into that model with the lack of a central strategy, that they've become a house of brands more by default rather than by choice. So back to your question. I think the the overarching question is wheredoes that equity reside, and often research can help answer that question. Oneexample our art museum. We received a naming gift in two thousand and sixteenand, by the way, we have a wonderful museum. The building wasdesigned by I am pay the museum has an amazing collection with works ranging fromPicasso to pollock. So let's say with that art museum that this naming giftcame from you, Eric, and your generosity, and let's say that wewant to build the art museum's reputation nationally and internationally so we can leverage theequity that has been built up over the university's nearly two hundred year history asthe Indiana University Olsen Museum of art,...

...or we can go at it asa standalone brand as the Olsen Museum of art, and understand that building abrand identity for the Olsen Museum, as great as that sounds, that doingso is going to be it's going to take considerable financial resources and time andwould simply not be the efficient way to go right right. Love it.Love that we've addressed a kind of that that spectrum broadly. Now let's diginto this kind of alternative way that you suggest. We might think to lookat hired brand architecture more like a city than a corporation. So I usethe term or the phrase a multidimensional branded municipality, and that's a mouthful andand doesn't quite roll off the tongue like branded house does. But for moreback around, I go back to the brand relationship spectrum by Akam Aker andYoakum Stollar, and another important consideration in that is that it was created forthe corporate sector. Almost all of their...

...examples within that spectrum are consumer goods, with a few service companies mixed in. Now there's a lot that we canand should learn from the corporate sector as it relates to brand strategy.But I think we need our own way to define brand architecture in Higher Ed. So we've established that the traditional branded house is the preferred way, butagain it's really hard to achieve. The traditional branded house fails to acknowledge thismultidimensional nature of our colleges and universities, all of these parts and pieces ofour institutions that contribute to the mission and make our institutions what they are.We have these centers and institutes and partnerships that just they don't always fit neatlyunder one roof. As a branded house. We're simply not BMW and sometimes thatcalls for a certain level of flexibility and how a unit leverages the masterbrand. So, rather than looking to define brand architecture based on this spectrumthat was created for the corporate sector.

I would propose thinking of the universities, as you said, as cities and while they're not necessarily a plethora ofgreat examples of brand strategy or cities, cities are in fact a more appropriateparallel municipalities. They serve the public just like our institutions do. These organizationsare multifunctional, with everything from parks and recreation to public safety to sanitation.So this different way of thinking about brand architecture where, in my case,where it came from was my dissertation research, where I did a case study ofa Peer Institution of Indiana University, and this peer did have what Iwould consider brand coherence across a large, complex, multi campus institution and theydid leverage their university master brand. However, I wouldn't necessarily characterize it, Iwouldn't characterize it, their brand architecture, as a branded house. That's justtoo too straightforward of a way to...

...look at it. So when itcomes to brand architecture for hire, read, I don't think we can be confinedto just a house. Eric. So we're expanding to a city withthis model. The city metaphor and approach is great. My Mind's just racingright now. So, so very grateful that you're you're adding that to thethis larger brand architecture conversation. You've really focused on this field of lots inyour higher a tenure. Any recommendations you have for a centralized marketing department oncampus? Who is attempting to solve this problem and create bread or brand coherenceacross their institution? Sure, a couple of thoughts, and I mention andmarket research earlier. You can never overstate the importance of market research to betterunderstand your audiences and their perceptions. Another point is that in my dissertation research, I found that the brand coherence that I observed at the case study universitywas not necessarily a byproduct of the centralized...

...marketing department and what that Marketing Departmentdid. Rather, the brand coherence reflected the institution's DNA. Brand is basedon who you really are and that's how they really operated academically and administratively.So for marketers, we need to be part of we need to influence notjust marketing discussions on our campus but also larger institutional discussions. And then lastI think we need to focus less on brand compliance and ideally we read ourvocabularies of that term brand compliance and instead shift the conversation away from policing thebrand, which often tends to focus on visual compliance, and shift the conversationmore toward how do we bring the brand to life, and that's it adeeper level of engagement. Tony proudfoot colleague from the University of Arizona. Hewrote a great piece for case last year and put it very well that insteadof brand compliance, we should talk about brand expression in order to change thebrand mindset on campus from fixed and compliant...

...to iterative and expressive, and Ithink he's right on the money. They're so good. Rob, incredibly gratefulfor your time and your mind today. What's the best place for listeners toconnect with you if they have any fill of questions about this? Yes,feel free to reach out on twitter. My handle is Rob Zincin, orfeel free to reach out on Linkedin. I'd love to hear about how otherinstitutions are navigating brand architecture at their universities. Let's build some cities, folks route. Thanks against so much for doing us today. Thanks Eric. Attractingtoday's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive inthis new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of theirenrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today'smost pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today...

...for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure thatyou never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favoritepodcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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