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

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

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 strategy is simply difficult, and higher education and brand architecture is especially complex because colleges and 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 at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. I'm miracles and AVP of marketing at Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Rob Sincoen, Associate Vice President for marketing at Indiana University. Rob, welcome to the show. Thanks, Eric. Great to be with you and thanks for all the great content that you share via this podcast. Thank you for being a listener. I'm really excited about our conversation today about a...

...new way to think about brand architecture and higher education. Before we dig into that, rob, can you give the 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 are home 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 and the largest medical school. We enroll more than a hundred ten thousand students across seven campuses, including almost fiftyzero at our big ten campus in Bloomington, and we are planning for our bicentennial coming up in two thousand and twenty. I serve in as system wide role, as you mentioned, as Associate Vice President for marketing and a fortunate to work with an outstanding team to help the university strategic 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 is constantly working to measure and optimize second,...

...serving as the marketing lead or liaison to our flagship campus leadership and marketing community, as we have marketing and communications professional spread throughout the campus. And then third, leading our full service internal marketing agency that does a variety of work across our institution. Awesome, rob to to start this conversation about brand architecture and Higher Ed. Can you give us 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 an entire organization and the organization's multiple offerings. Common examples would be apple, Fedex, BMW. You so the Apple Watch, for example, leverages the equity of the apple brand with a house of brands. In contrast, you essentially have standalone brands. The classic example here is proctor and gamble, and it's many independent brands, everything from Jillette,...

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

I should say that a branded house is much easier said than done. It's really hard to achieve a branded house and higher education, where you often have a culture of decentralization and decentralized structures thanks to responsibility, centered management, budgeting systems and many other factors. So it conferences. When I ask hired colleagues at your institution how many of you 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 a branded house, of course only a handful of hands go up. I love it, love it. Rob You've written about how focus and differentiation are some of the keys to strong higher ad branding. Does that imply that there are some strong benefits of that house of brands model and high red in order to specifically highlight those differentiations? I'm not necessarily I wouldn't say that that it implies that house of brands would be the way...

...to go necessarily. I think it implies, first and foremost that brand strategy is simply difficult, and higher education and 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 brands predicament and in terms of focus. Successful brands, especially corporate examples, are focused. Higher Education missions, though, are not focused. There are multipromped and wide ranging. Our academic affairs, because decative vice president often says that great universities are great because they do a great many things, and I couldn't agree more. That's absolutely the case, but it's also what makes it really hard 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 you could be the marketing director at the academic unit level and you're still dealing with department, centers, institutes and other entities...

...within your school. I do think it's helpful to look back at the origin of these terms branded house and house of brands and the seminal work that David Ocker and Eric Yokam staller did back in two thousand they develop the brand relationship spectrum, with a branded house at one 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're either 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 was extremely difficult. So within that spectrum there are a variety of ways to describe the relationship between a company's multiple offerings and what role, if any, the master brand plays. So in higher education, a single college or university could actually land in multiple spots on that spectrum,...

...all at the same time trying to justify that house of brands model for those listening hoping that that you do because they come from that kind of institution. When I think about institutions where a school 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 stronger or differentiated enough brand to justify that house of brands model better. I certainly think there are examples in and you went to where I think what comes to mind 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's been around with that name since the late eighteen hundreds and obviously has built significant brand equity. So you can occasionally defend an individual outlier to that branded house model, but it's challenging to defend the house of brands approach as an institutional strategy. If a college or university operates...

...as a house of brands, it's likely 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 where does that equity reside, and often research can help answer that question. One example our art museum. We received a naming gift in two thousand and sixteen and, by the way, we have a wonderful museum. The building was designed by I am pay the museum has an amazing collection with works ranging from Picasso to pollock. So let's say with that art museum that this naming gift came from you, Eric, and your generosity, and let's say that we want to build the art museum's reputation nationally and internationally so we can leverage the equity that has been built up over the university's nearly two hundred year history as the Indiana University Olsen Museum of art,...

...or we can go at it as a standalone brand as the Olsen Museum of art, and understand that building a brand identity for the Olsen Museum, as great as that sounds, that doing so is going to be it's going to take considerable financial resources and time and would 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 dig into this kind of alternative way that you suggest. We might think to look at hired brand architecture more like a city than a corporation. So I use the term or the phrase a multidimensional branded municipality, and that's a mouthful and and doesn't quite roll off the tongue like branded house does. But for more back around, I go back to the brand relationship spectrum by Akam Aker and Yoakum Stollar, and another important consideration in that is that it was created for the 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 can and 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, but again it's really hard to achieve. The traditional branded house fails to acknowledge this multidimensional nature of our colleges and universities, all of these parts and pieces of our 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 neatly under one roof. As a branded house. We're simply not BMW and sometimes that calls for a certain level of flexibility and how a unit leverages the master brand. So, rather than looking to define brand architecture based on this spectrum that 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 of great examples of brand strategy or cities, cities are in fact a more appropriate parallel municipalities. They serve the public just like our institutions do. These organizations are 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 of a Peer Institution of Indiana University, and this peer did have what I would consider brand coherence across a large, complex, multi campus institution and they did leverage their university master brand. However, I wouldn't necessarily characterize it, I wouldn't characterize it, their brand architecture, as a branded house. That's just too too straightforward of a way to...

...look at it. So when it comes to brand architecture for hire, read, I don't think we can be confined to just a house. Eric. So we're expanding to a city with this model. The city metaphor and approach is great. My Mind's just racing right now. So, so very grateful that you're you're adding that to the this larger brand architecture conversation. You've really focused on this field of lots in your higher a tenure. Any recommendations you have for a centralized marketing department on campus? Who is attempting to solve this problem and create bread or brand coherence across their institution? Sure, a couple of thoughts, and I mention and market research earlier. You can never overstate the importance of market research to better understand 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 university was not necessarily a byproduct of the centralized...

...marketing department and what that Marketing Department did. Rather, the brand coherence reflected the institution's DNA. Brand is based on 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 not just marketing discussions on our campus but also larger institutional discussions. And then last I think we need to focus less on brand compliance and ideally we read our vocabularies of that term brand compliance and instead shift the conversation away from policing the brand, which often tends to focus on visual compliance, and shift the conversation more toward how do we bring the brand to life, and that's it a deeper level of engagement. Tony proudfoot colleague from the University of Arizona. He wrote a great piece for case last year and put it very well that instead of brand compliance, we should talk about brand expression in order to change the brand mindset on campus from fixed and compliant...

...to iterative and expressive, and I think he's right on the money. They're so good. Rob, incredibly grateful for your time and your mind today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any fill of questions about this? Yes, feel free to reach out on twitter. My handle is Rob Zincin, or feel free to reach out on Linkedin. I'd love to hear about how other institutions are navigating brand architecture at their universities. Let's build some cities, folks route. Thanks against so much for doing us today. Thanks Eric. Attracting today'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 in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most 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 that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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