Why I Love Two Small New England Schools…That Are Not My Alma Mater

Jay here. As many of you know, I graduated from Bryant University in Rhode Island. It’s a great school and I’m still very involved. Bryant has done a wonderful job improving its brand, growing its reputation and enrollment, and making my degree more valuable. However, I’d like to discuss a couple of nearby schools that have really impressed me over the years.

When I was at Bryant (1981-1985), there were three business specialty schools in the area: Bryant, Bentley, and Babson. We referred to each other as “The three B’s”. I think they still do.

Over the years, Bryant and Bentley have employed similar strategies and they are both doing well (or so it seems). They expanded horizontally, becoming universities and broadly increasing the number of programs they offer. They both draw upon their business heritage to stand out from the many other universities in the New England region.

However, Babson took a different approach. They decided early on to “own” the term “entrepreneurship”. They have focused on building a reputation as THE school for entrepreneurs. This focus and dedication is difficult, impressive, and has been very successful for the college.

What I admire about Babson is that they have a clear core competency, embraced and fortified it, and have built a powerful brand that is recognized around the world. Last year, Babson was ranked #1 in entrepreneurship by US News and World Report for the 21st consecutive year, beating out MIT, USC, and Penn. 21 straight years! How amazing is that?

Another school that I’m very impressed with is Quinnipiac University. They were a college as well when I was at Bryant in the ‘80’s. I remember playing golf against them, but not much else. They made the transition to a university in 2000.

Being out here in Chicago, I don’t often hear about New England schools. However, I have heard and seen the Quinnipiac brand many times throughout the years. You can’t help but notice them, especially around election time.

In the late 1980’s, they began compiling primary research for a marketing class. They institutionalized it in the mid-90’s and have grown the program into a powerfully influential force in politics and more. Their polls are covered by all major news outlets and they been cited many times by every top shelf media source. Quinnipiac has become an authority and well-respected source for important consumer data. And this has contributed greatly to their enrollment. Incredible!

So, as higher education marketers, we are always looking for something that can give our clients/schools an edge. We get so caught up in managing the current situation, we often do not see the opportunities to change it. Granted, these two examples were very strategic and took dedication to develop and grow. But what can you do to stand out? Are there any words or phrases that you can “own”? What can you do to gain positive attention that generates awareness, increases perception, and motivates consideration?

There are probably a number of opportunities to improve your brand happening at your school right now. Instead of trying to invent something, look around and try to find something you can expand or grow as a marketer to help build your brand. Academics do a lot of cool stuff, but they don’t think like marketers. Check out what’s going on around campus. I’m guessing you’ll find something interesting.

Jay Weinberg

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