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  1. The Next Chapter in Education

    Download our Position Paper
The Next Chapter in Education

Brand Innovation for Higher Ed

Education is on the precipice of significant change as new learning criteria, technologies, and channels are changing the landscape. Competition for students and donor dollars has heated up as top universities with big brand names and endowments are extending their reach into new territories. Economic leaders such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg are famous for dropping out of school, and new learning models from Khan Academy to MITx are drawing into question the value of a degree. Colleges and Universities need to modernize their approaches to recruiting, fundraising, and building learning communities to remain relevant and vital. 

Peopledesign is a brand innovation firm which helps institutions stay relevant and agile. We've worked with colleges and universities to activate their communities, show how they add value and tell their story.

We help you:

Find Focus

Staying relevant to customers means being a brand of choice. We help you establish and communicate your strategic direction. We clarify the vision and seek step change. 

  • Clarify brand messages
  • Unify recruiting, development, and athletic narratives
  • Audience behavioral targeting
  • Leadership/departmental alignment

Align Teams and Tools

The new era requires new systems with different opportunities, technologies, and metrics. There is a greater need for consistency and integration. Next, we help connect your strategy to a plan. We help create customer experience programs that drive change to define ideal customer interactions — plan for today and a roadmap for tomorrow.

  • Communications strategy
  • Students and parent campaigns
  • Donor outreach
  • Re-connecting with Alumni
  • Digital strategy
  • Department and brand standards

Integrated Marketing and Development

Like many schools, Grand Valley State University has a challenge shaping how schools need to communicate their value, with an ever higher level of competition for both students and donor dollars.

GVSU asked Peopledesign to achieve something they had never done before – create an integrated campaign for both recruiting and development. We helped bridge a departmental gap that exists in many institutions, first by better understanding the objectives of each group, then overlaying our strategic process and primary research. Then we developed recommendations for a more focused identity program that begins to address the needs of the GVSU brand itself.

The resulting campaign has been widely adopted by both groups and is expanding to other parts of the school including students and faculty.

GVSU Case Study

The Laker Effect program is overwhelmingly popular with all constituencies and we owe that success to your leadership and expertise.
—Nancy French, Senior Director of Communications

Integrated Marketing and Development

Meaningful Brand Standards

Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) of Ferris State University needed to re-energize its brand in order to generate stronger awareness nationally and connect more meaningfully with current and potential students as well as community members. With a new logo in hand, KCAD asked Peopledesign to extend that logo to create a unified brand vision for the school.

Our work involved helping the school better express align the new brand program by first auditing KCAD’s current materials, and clarifying personas for different audience groups.

KCAD Case Study

Love. Love. Love. This is fantastic. It clearly suits our new brand standards but won't look completely foreign to current fans. Home run.
—Elena Tislerics, Director of Graphic Design

Meaningful Brand Standards

Facilitated Workshops

When the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business was looking for student input on its program, they enlisted Peopledesign. We facilitated a workshop with outgoing MBA graduates in the Design and Business Innovation group to generate new thinking for the graduate program. We've conducted similar work with Grand Rapids Community College, and IIT Institute of Design, and Aquinas College.

Aligning teams

Facilitated Workshops

Education Further Reading

  • The Changing Education Landscape

    The Changing Education Landscape

    The landscape for higher education is changing. Student demographics, influencer networks, new media, an overall market perception of the value of a degree is causing many schools to rethink their focus. A shrinking and changing high school graduation population is forcing colleges and universities to compete on a national level. Too many schools are generally saying the same thing and competing on the same merits. To increase their appeal, schools are trying to attract students in a variety of ways – from offering scholarships to new college sports like bowling or fishing. Meanwhile, schools tend to underutilize or completely ignore alumni in the admissions process, and also rarely differentiate between materials targeted towards parents as opposed to students. All this is under the umbrella influence of technology and what it means for education generally. Here are a few key trends we have found through our experience and research.

  • Is Prestige Dead in Higher Ed?

    Is Prestige Dead in Higher Ed?

    In our work with clients in the higher education field, almost all of the college and university officials with whom we meet describe the perception goal they have for their institution the same way. They all want to be seen as “prestigious.” This is a curious point. Is “prestige” what parents really want from their children’s college education? Where does “prestige” rank on students’ own list of priorities when choosing a school? And what does “prestige” even mean anymore in a world where the level of success achieved by an entrepreneurial Ivy League dropout can eclipse that of any Ivy League graduate? The cost of a college degree is rising at a dramatic rate, yet the value of that same degree is decreasing as the number of degree holders continues to rise, flooding a job market that’s still not fully recovered from recession.

  • Alumni are Worth More than Donations

    Alumni are Worth More than Donations

    A recovering economy and rising tuition costs have forced colleges and universities to demonstrate the ROI of a degree more than ever. Alumni have become a holy grail in the academic recruitment world, yet the bulk of the outreach to alumni is for donations. There are a rising number of applications that mention the impact of alumni as the reason for applying to a particular college. If alumni are increasingly influencing student’s college choices, and are a key in demonstrating the value of a degree why aren’t more schools equipping this population to be evangelists’ for the school rather than simply asking for donations? A brand evangelist can produce more for your institution than a $50 donation.

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