Time to refresh: Solent Uni

Our second expert in a series on how digital tools can refresh your institution's brand is Leonora Clement, Head of Marketing & Content at Solent Uni

In your opinion, how does online marketing play a role in a brand refresh?
Online marketing is a key element of a brand refresh because it enables you to quickly and cost-effectively reach a very wide audience. When you’ve refreshed your brand you need to be able to get it out to as much of your target market as quickly as possible so that you don’t lose the momentum that you had with your previous brand. Online marketing enables you to personalise and target your communications to those people for whom it is the most relevant, meaning you can quickly and easily reach the people for whom your brand will resonate the most, ensuring it has maximum impact. 
It can also give you the freedom to bring your brand to life in a way that you may not be able to achieve offline. For example, one of our brand assets is a circle device, which we’ve been able to animate on our website – something we wouldn’t have been able to do in print.

What digital tools are out there to make branding easier?
There are both technical tools and digital marketing tools to support branding. Technical tools include being able to use web-safe fonts, animations of assets, and better control over HTML and CSS (the technology used in the construction of web pages) to match brand guidelines. To support the roll-out of a new brand, the digital space is spoilt for choice as these can be announced via email, social media, display advertising and push notifications. Awareness can be raised very quickly and can be highly targeted.

What are the most important elements of a school/college/university brand in the digital age?
Higher education is an increasingly competitive market, therefore having an impactful brand that makes you stand out from your competitors is crucial. Use of personalisation is a key part of that. You have to be where your audience is (which is largely online) at the right time and with communications that they can relate to. This means investing advertising budget in programmatic activity, rather than just placing adverts and hoping for the best. 
It also means continuing investment in your online presence, particularly your website, to give you stand-out value. When it comes to your website, you have to always put the user first – if their needs aren’t considered, they won’t find the information they want and will move on to competitors.

Do you think the use of digital tools is more important in a school, college or university setting, or is it the same across the board?
The use of digital tools is vitally important in a school, college or university setting, simply because of the nature and habits of our target market. At Solent University we are looking to recruit across a broad spectrum as we offer anything from traditional undergraduate study routes through to cadetships, apprenticeships, short courses and postgraduate study. But the undergraduate audience is still a primary one for us, and they spend a lot of their time online. Therefore, having a strong brand presence online is crucial, and being able to reach our audience via digital channels is a key element of our marketing strategy.

Have you seen any particular developments in the use of digital tools in institutions over the last 12 months?
At Solent we are increasingly pushing our marketing and recruitment efforts online. We’ve been using an online platform called Bonjoro to send personalised videos to our applicants and open day attendees. It’s become an integral element of our conversion activities and enables us to have one-to-one engagement with applicants. We’ve used it to give them feedback on their application in particular, and it encourages a dialogue between us and them where we can give them a real taste of the personality of the University.
We have also increasingly made use of social media tools during Clearing, using Whatsapp in particular to make offers to students. Traditionally, Clearing has been all about students having to phone around institutions on results day – introducing social media as a channel for them to make contact makes the process a little less daunting and much more accessible.

Do you have any examples of education providers that are using digital tools to refresh their brand particularly well?
Leeds Beckett University are using the personalisation capabilities of their website Content Management System (CMS) to deliver a highly targeted experience to their website users. They’ve integrated both on and offline activity to drive each visitor’s journey on the site so the content they see will become more and more relevant to them the more they visit, and the longer they stay on the site. But it will also take into account offline activity such as whether they’ve been to a recent open day. Arguably, this refreshes their brand just by being so modern and forward-thinking and it also makes them current in the user’s eyes. 
At Solent we’ve created a brand asset that could be used across all mediums (our circle device) but is enhanced on digital channels as it is highly versatile with HTML5 and CSS3.

For further info on Solent University, click here.