Evidence-Based Innovation Blog

What business schools can learn from the 10 "buzziest" brands

Posted on Jul 16, 2013 11:50:00 AM

MBA Enrollment StrategiesIn a recent YouGov BrandIndex survey, 600,000 American consumers were asked their perceptions of brands to determine which ones had the best reputations.

The results were surprising.  For starters, Coca-Cola didn’t bubble up to the top 10. Try searching for Google. And Apple didn’t take a bite into this ranking. 

Who made the list?

  1. Ford
  2. Amazon
  3. Subway
  4. History Chanel
  5. Lowe’s
  6. V8
  7. Walgreens
  8. You Tube
  9. Kindle
  10. Cheerios

According to advertising executive Donny Deutsch, many of the winners (Kindle, Amazon, Lowe’s, You Tube, Subway), share a commonality. As he told NBC News, 

“They all are self-empowerment brands.  They’re all do-it-yourself brands where the consumer has control” whether it’s “making your own sandwich at Subway or choosing your own video on You Tube.  This is a lot of the trend that is going on.  Consumer as king.”

So, how can business school recruiters and marketers capitalize on this trend?

Inject self-empowerment into the admissions process

There has been a lot of press coverage recently about new MBA admissions policies reducing the number of essays. For example, both HBS and UCLA now only require one essay (optional for HBS) for their full-time MBA program. 

It’s a great strategy to reduce the barriers of entry for prospective students. With fewer application pieces to put together, candidates will be less inclined to put off applying because of the time and effort (especially when the same information can be conveyed through an interview or recommendation letter).

Taking this one step further, consider providing the opportunity to allow candidates to craft their own essay question. In addition to giving applicants a sense of control during the nail-biting admissions process, it will also help business schools assess creative skills, an important indicator of success in studies as well as in business. And just think of the mileage that can be gained with media attention (read free marketing) for a novel approach. (Have doubts? Just remember the media buzz that was created when Tippie introduced a tweet" essay).     

Inject self-empowerment in MBA social media postings

Social media is "must have" today to share exciting news about b-school happenings including photos of graduation ceremonies, alumni news, and information session invitations. But it’s also an opportunity to empower prospects to customize their MBA experience.

Here’s an example from the retail world. Check out Lilly Pulitzer’s recent post on Facebook inviting consumers to design a sweater:

B-school social media strategies

What ways can your business school weave engagement from MBA prospects on social media? How about asking asking members of your social media groups to vote on extracurricular activities during orientation or community service projects? Whatever the question, the whole idea is to make prospects feel that they are a part of the process - especially considering that so much of the business school experience is outside their control (admissions decisions, curriculum design).

Highlight Self-Empowerment in Your Marketing Messages 

While much of an MBA program can feel regimented based on the nature of academic degrees, there are some components where students do have a say. Be sure to highlight these areas in your marketing collateral whether it's promoting electives in full-time MBA programs or multiple locations in part-time MBA programs. I remember a sales manager in the food and beverage industry telling me the reason they offered so many different colors in their product line was because customers liked having lots of choices.

Think of it this way. We're living in an iTunes era not Tower Records (for those of us old enough to remember). Find ways to show how students can customize their MBA experience as much as they can. And, as always, demonstrate how your program is different from the competition.  

What other ways can you present your MBA program as a self-empowered brand?


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Barbara Coward, author of this article, is a marketing communications consultant at Percept Research. Barbara welcomes your questions and comments. 


Topics: Barbara Coward, Admissions, Marketing Strategy