Guy Felder is the Chief Strategist at Story+Structure, a company that brings human-centered design to marketing and higher education departments. The JMH team has known Guy since his time at the University of Houston’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies department, where he was the Director of Marketing and Enrollment Support. Over the last several years, Guy has worked with higher education departments to help them clarify their brand and brand promise — and he sat with JMH Consulting’s President Nicole Foerschler Horn to offer exclusive tips and techniques.
How do you differentiate your university brand from your department’s brand experience?
This is a big question I help departments within universities answer all the time. First, we have to agree on a model. The one I use most commonly is:
Primary brand: Winsford University
Secondary brand: School of Continuing Education
Tertiary brand: Paralegal Certificate Program
In this model, the secondary brand is inclusive of all the tertiary brands beneath it. So, every program within SoCE. Likewise, the primary brand is inclusive of all the secondary brands. When it comes to differentiation we have to figure out how to make something distinct, without making it separate. This is where conversations need to happen with all stake holders. How is your secondary brand similar to other secondary brands, how is it different?. Which of these differences can you tie to the primary brand in unique ways? Imagine the primary brand as appearing as the word UNIVERSITY from a distance. But as you get closer you see each letter is made up of segments and parts, unique pieces, like a rock wall or a mosaic. Your secondary brand is one of the pieces it should be distinctly identifiable up close, and blend into the rest of the secondary brands from a distance. Tertiary brands are different – as they are often “products.” A product family often forms the justification for a secondary brand.”
What should continuing education and graduate school brands bring to their parent brand?
The short answer is equity. They should contribute to the increasing value of the primary brand. Their presence should enhance the primary brand. The challenge is that ways to do this are infinite. I work with a lot of PCE units who are bringing a lot of equity, but it’s not equity to primary brand needs or recognizes. They are using the wrong currency. In a previous job at a university the institution pivoted from being a teaching university to research. The PCE unit was offering workforce programs – and it was never able to connect itself to this new mission in a way that was meaningful to the university. It was not seen as bringing equity. Now it’s gone.
How do you build your corporate culture within the department so there is alignment with the brand experience and brand promise?
A brand promise is just that – a commitment to a customer/stake holder. The promises should be derived from what I call the “brand thesis statement.” Keeping these promises creates the desired brand experience. When created these promises getting input from as many people as possible is key. Once they are established it is about governance. Brand promises have to create a tangible result that can be measured. If they aren’t kept that state has to be observable. Keeping the brand promises has to be part of every team members performance measurement. Only then does it become part of the culture.
How do you begin the conversation about creating a brand promise with the university leadership?
We’ve seen a dramatic shift in the past 10 years in how customers evaluate organizations they engage wth. They do it on experience. Forrester recently released a study noting that 15 years ago a customer would tolerate up to 8 bad experiences before considering another organization. Today that number is down to 1. We have the ability to capture and analyze so much data about a customer, and it’s being done in so many places that it’s expected. Customers expect you to know enough about them to provide a good experience. If you don’t, they’ll look elsewhere. Combine this with the reality that customers now define your brand. They can talk to each other in ways they never could before through social networking and other mediums. It’s crucial to have a framework for created the experience you believe your customers deserve – so you can in turn deserve the customer.