Brand, Membership-Based Marketing, and Education

By Phil Mikesell, Senior Account Manager at Fineline Printing Group

So what do we know about brand consistency across multiple audiences?

We know maintaining brand across multiple industries can be similar in some ways. Take logos for example. Every time we see or reach for a Coca-Cola, we know what we are getting.

We also know that customizing key messages by target demographic can get a bit tricky. Hence…Diet Coke for the calorie conscious, Coke Zero for the carb conscious, Coca-Cola Life for the high-fructose conscious, and on and on.

What we don’t know are how many new Coca-Cola Life drinkers reached for their second can because it was stocked in their favorite store, or the number of brand followers created because they were exposed to the same product within the next 48 hours of consumption.

Point is, it’s difficult to market to multiple audiences while maintaining brand and quantifying how targeted brand messages align to conversion. Another part of that struggle and related to the article in March’s Connect Magazine, “Brand Police: Why your brand should be the first line of defense” is you don’t want the brand, you worked so hard to create, to fall short when it comes to print, or other marketing channels.

As Fineline’s Senior Account Manager, I have worked with a broad network of experts and have had years of experience running successful campaigns with higher education marketers, including our work with Indiana University Health and their Clarian rebranding efforts. I’ve seen the struggles firsthand with brand consistency in higher education and their multiple audiences like: parents, students, alumni associations, fraternities/sororities and educational associations.BrandConsistency_051915

So when do you want the same brand and messaging in education, and when should it be different? And what is the ideal result of each audience, and how do you cater your response channels?


Share the brand love

Like any large brands, large educational institutions have a more easily recognized message through visuals and logos. Many education marketers cross-pollinate terminology so there is a consistent dialogue across all channels. Whether big or small, start by taking the top 3 things your ‘universal audience’ needs to know about your brand, and develop a process for everyone to stick to. A good example of this is how marketers at IU Health use Fineline’s Creative Companion tool to protect branding assets in print and multimedia.


Segmentation is key to getting noticed

After establishing a common branding language and process for protecting brand, the next step is to identify key audiences and target messages with those groups.

As you can likely guess, sending a student a donation card to build a new stadium is going to yield VERY different results than sending a personalized card to an alumni with a sports background. It’s really that simple. Having clean, segmented data that details the lifetime of a lead’s activity – is likely to increase response rates by at least 2X.

Parents talk in a very different language than alumni or prospective students. Here are a couple of key message takeaways I’ve worked on with Fineline higher education marketers:

– Students: Sell the experience and extra-curricular benefits as “cool place to be” and develop life-long beneficial relationships.

– Prospective students: Make them want to be a part of the experience; highlighting features and benefits to them that address their interests.

– Alumni associations: Promotional items and “thank-you’s” go a long way when asking for donations. Make sure they know it is for them and it is an equal investment relationship.

– Fraternities, sororities and educational associations: High-end new membership pieces that start the relationship off right and within a relevant time frame.


Response channels are equally unique to the target demographics. If you are targeting prospective students, they are more likely to say…engage with an online calendar call to action, versus asking them to call into Admissions to schedule a site visit. Consider the easiest, most effective response channel according to your audience and stay up on the latest trends and newest mediums the younger demographic might be utilizing.


Personalizing makes a big difference in response and conversion success

This is especially true with a membership audience like fraternities, sororities and alumni. Having print materials tailored to each new member creates overall membership and brand loyalty. I’ve also seen marketing tools such as membership certifications, membership cards, support books work really well for existing members.

Managing membership materials in a digital storefront portal is a phenomenal way for higher education marketers to decrease time to market and admin costs by nearly 30%. The tracking and accountability for product is important for inventory control and it is super simple to pull reports and audits – keeping the board happy.


Timeline to interaction

First impressions count. The timeline in which you interact with your audience, and specifically new members, is the most important moment for downstream revenue. Think about how you market, brand and track results along the lifetime value of new members and their milestones. Whether your selling points are eventual job placement, graduation rate, experiential, sports program success or alumni – it is essential to keep them engaged upfront and as they progress through their lifetime affiliation. Considering how membership materials are presented and how timely that gets into their hands after initiation, makes all the difference.


Make it simple

With today’s overwhelming number of outreach and response marketing channels, I’ve seen the most successful marketers hone in on the most relevant channels to their audience, and continually refine those within their brand. Within education, and specifically higher education with so many audiences, take a unified foot forward in terms of brand and develop a custom, simplified language for each target audience that rolls up into your brand. Audiences will then find relevancy and have appropriate expectations when interacting with your brand.


If you want to learn more about our work with higher education companies, or to simply consult with us on best practices, please contact us today.

Brand Police: Why your brand should be the first line of defense featured in Connect Magazine, March/April 2015.

Read the full digital version here.


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