A Guide to Brand Awareness

Have you heard people call themselves Cornhuskers, Fighting Irish, Crimson Tide, Tarheels or Buckeyes?

These are perfect examples of where brand awareness and people’s lifestyles intertwine. They wear their school colors with pride and are the greatest brand ambassadors. This is brand awareness.

Our goal for this post is to help you better understand brand awareness: why it is important to all institutions, and how it helps your community grow and thrive.

What is Brand Awareness?

Brand awareness shows how familiar your key audience is with your brand and how well it is recognized. Institutions with a strong brand awareness are often associated with popular athletic programs or have a long-standing history of famous alumni and collegiate accolades.

Brand awareness might seem like an ambiguous concept and in a sense, it is. It can be difficult to see the correlation between brand success and its impact on your Return On Investment (ROI). Although this might not be easy to defend to your President of Enrollment, that doesn’t mean it does not have value. Brand awareness is essential to the success of your enrollment numbers and your overall marketing and fundraising goals. Here’s why.

Brand Awareness Establishes Trust and Loyalty

In an era where prospective students rely on extensive research, their parent’s input, and their peers’ opinions before they make a simple decision, can you imagine what it takes to feel secure about their college choice? Brand trust is everything. Once a prospect forms an emotional connection in some way to your community (i.e. your brand), they are more likely to want to be a part of it; bridging the gap between trust and loyalty.

By establishing a proverbial face to your institution’s name, prospects find it easier to trust. Your brand awareness efforts give your brand a personality and an opportunity to be sincere, tell your story and receive feedback. Which in turn makes them feel heard and special. This is innately human nature.

Brand Awareness Creates Community

Brand awareness for institutions associates actions, values, and programs with a school. Positive brand equity develops when prospects observe a supportive and energized community on social media or in your email communications. A little effort truly goes a long way – you can easily develop strong brand equity by consistently promoting positive student experiences with your school and in turn build brand awareness.

Once a prospect is familiar with your brand, they start to recognize it without assistance, seek it out to learn more about specific programs or events, then they begin to prefer it over some of their other college options. Which is ultimately the goal for your student search initiatives.

How to Establish Brand Awareness

Brand awareness among your audience and the general public doesn’t happen overnight. It also doesn’t happen from a simple advertisement or marketing campaign. Strong brand awareness is a result of multiple simultaneous efforts that extend beyond trying to get a student to apply to your institution.

If you expect to raise awareness of your institution by running a few advertisements on Facebook, you won’t get very far. Here are some ways to establish a solid brand awareness foundation and make a lasting impact on your prospects.

Be Personable

When you are getting to know a new person, what do you like to learn about them? Maybe you like to learn about their hobbies, passions, likes, and dislikes, maybe their goals? You pay attention to how they speak, what gets them excited. These are attributes about your institution that should be promoted. Make them feel like more than a tuition check, show them how you want to include them in your community.


Introvert or extrovert, outgoing or quiet, all humans benefit from social contact and spending time with one another and being in a community where they belong. It’s how we stay connected, learn new things, and become known by others.

The same goes for your brand. If you only attempt to connect with your audience when trying to get them to apply or raise money (don’t forget about your alumni) you will be known as the school with a singular intention.

To raise awareness of for your institution, you’ve got to be social. Interact with your audience by asking questions, commenting on posts, or retweeting or sharing content you like. Treat your social accounts as if you were a person trying to make friends, not a business trying to make money.

Be a Storyteller

Storytelling is an incredibly powerful tool for student search and brand awareness. Why? Because it gives something real for your audience to connect with. Developing a narrative around your school and its values humanize it and give it depth.

People love hearing stories about each other. Authenticity is impactful, and it can lead to a big boost in brand awareness.

Make Sharing Easy

Whatever enrollment strategies you are using, it is important to make it easy for your audience to share your content. This could be videos, social media posts, campus events, or alumni news. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it’s shareable.

Word-of-mouth is the most effective way to establish trust and familiarity among your audience. If a prospect sees a friend or family member is sharing your school’s content, they will take notice. It could inspire them to explore your website and check out your offerings.

How to Measure Brand Awareness

How do you know if your brand awareness efforts are working? How do you know if you need to change direction, top the competition, or fix a crisis? Just like any other marketing metric, you measure it.

Although, brand awareness can’t be measured in the traditional sense. But, you can still review activities and metrics that’ll help you gauge where your brand stands in terms of popularity.

Quantitative Brand Awareness Measures

These numbers can help you paint the overall picture of your brand awareness. To measure quantitatively, check out these metrics:

  • Direct traffic. Direct traffic is the result of people intentionally typing in your URL and visiting your website. Your direct traffic number will tell you how much your marketing is prompting students to visit your website. If you have a single purpose admissions website (digital viewbook) this could be an excellent indication of brand awareness and prospect interest.
  • Site traffic. This number reflects overall site traffic, which will tell you how much (and how long) the general internet population is checking out you. It won’t necessarily tell you exactly where they came from but that doesn’t matter because they are aware of you and are landing on your website.
  • Social engagement. Engagement can refer to followers, likes, retweets, comments, and more. It’s a reflection of how many people are aware of your school and socialize with it, as well as how impactful your posts are.
Qualitative Brand Awareness Measures

This step is where your brand awareness “score” gets a little muddy. But these tactics can still help you gauge who and how many people are aware of your brand. To measure qualitatively, try:

  • Set up Google alerts. Doing this gets you up to speed with how your brand is being talked about online. It will alert you to any news or mentions by third-party press. Plus you can set it up to give you convenient daily or weekly emails. If you set aside just 15 minutes a week to review the alerts, you will have great insight into your brand awareness.
  • Social listening. Who is tagging your institution, mentioning it in comments, or using your hashtag in their posts? The more your audience is discussing your school on social media, the more they’re aware of it.
  • Brand awareness surveys. This process involves getting direct feedback from your students, prospects, and alumni. This can be incredibly helpful with understanding who knows of your brand but also what they think of it.

Utilizing quantitative and qualitative metrics will help you understand your brand awareness among your audience and the general public. It will never be a precise number, but keeping your pulse on these metrics will help you craft campaigns that help you stay connected.

Building and growing brand awareness is a never-ending process, so don’t get frustrated. Boosting your brand awareness through campaigns gives you a chance to explore different techniques in marketing and advertising opportunities you’d otherwise not invest in — meaning new, powerful ways to connect with your audience. So have some fun, be creative and curious, and show your audience what you’re all about!

5 Tips to Combat Summer Melt

‘Summer Melt’ … it’s a term I knew nothing about as a senior in high school, although it was happening all around me. We all daydreamed and speculated in the hallways about what life after high school would bring.  We eagerly discussed moving away from our parents – oh, the freedom! We applied to college after college for varying reasons: campus events, friends we’d make, life experiences we would have, the concentration or major the school specialized in, the amazing location.  For others, it came down to finding the right financial fit and a school we could count on.  We, of course, had no idea that all the colleges we’d applied to and then never enrolled in had, in some way, been counting on us as well.  As the summer after graduation flew past, the last thing on our minds was the colleges we’d applied to but had decided against.

As admission professionals, this drop of college-intending students (those that apply then drop out of the enrollment funnel between graduation and the start of fall classes) commonly referred to as ‘Summer Melt’ has a significant impact on institutions.  There are a variety of reasons why this happens ranging from financial aid falling through or lack of support or guidance, to difficulties in the logistics of actually attending college.  The students who once had a bevy of friends around them to urge them forward – guidance counselors, financial aid advisors, teachers with their interests in mind – suddenly find themselves navigating the next steps alone.  The entire support network that had surrounded them is gone.  One Harvard study noted that between 10 and 40 percent of students melt away in the summer months. This melt is even more prevalent in low-income communities.  That is a difficult number for an institution to justify.  Luckily, there are 5 tips that institutions can apply to lessen the blow and cool the melt.

1. Transition Programs

Often referred to as “Launch to College” events, transition programs bring alumni, current students, financial aid officers, and college representatives together to encourage and aid in the transition from high school graduation to college.

2. Comm Flows

Keep open lines of communication and continue to build student engagement and excitement about their choice to attend your college.  A skilled Higher Education marketing company such as TWG Plus can help launch an anti-melt campaign to seamlessly continue the dialogue with your students.

3. Specialized Teams

Create an internal team of people to reach out personally to each student to ensure their questions are answered, they know where to find resources to help them, and they are talked through processes that can hinder their movement forward.

4. Leverage School Counselors

Some institutions are hiring guidance counselors on a contract basis to continue their support to incoming students throughout the summer months.

5. Analyze your Data

Know what the rates of summer melt are among your students and the trends among them. Consider employing a company such as TWG Plus to conduct research of prospective and current students to gauge where the students are dropping and why.  Detailed analysis will show you exactly where and when to focus your anti-melt strategies.

Any of the above tips will yield positive results for both your institution and your students.  A combination will bring you close to your enrollment goals.

For more information on Summer Melt, Research, or hitting your enrollment goals, please reach out to us at info@twgplus.com

Best Practices: Instagram Ads for Higher Education

After a rollout period as slow as Christmas, Instagram finally made its ad platform generally available.

Using the Facebook Power Editor, colleges and universities can use Instagram to promote clicks to your websites or landing pages with images or videos.

In our experiments with Instagram, we’ve taken some of our best practices from our social media and banner advertising campaigns and applied them to this new channel. We’re seeing that Instagram has been performing well in terms of click through rates – 2 -3% on average.

Best Practices for Higher Education Instagram Ads

Campaign Integration

As the name implies, these are ads. As such they should be consistent in tone and design with your other marketing campaigns. Even though Instagram is technically a social media  channel you are still using an ad that needs to conform to your brand and message – and contribute to your goals.

Use Email Lists for Remarketing

Speaking of campaign integration, get more out of your student search lists and your house lists by creating an audience segment with emails. Not all of your emails will find a match in Facebook, but the ones that do will be served ads that will help increase awareness and keep your school top of mind.

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Be Simple With Your Design

Instagram (and Facebook) require that no more than 20% of your image is covered by copy. This prevents you from using infographics or a large typeset design.  If you are going to add text to your image, keep it small and have a clear call to action such as “Apply Now” or “Come See Campus!”  Facebook provides a grid tool to verify that you are within its specs.

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Don’t Forget Your Logo

Even though you need to keep your image clutter-free, don’t forget to put your logo in the shot. Without the logo, it could look like just another image.  Depending on your brand and campaign guidelines, building recognition with a consistent look and feel.  Also, if you are going to show students, try to include them showing off their school colors.

Be Interesting

When our designers are looking for an Instagram image, they want it to be interesting. We like to find pictures that are dynamic, show action or even drama. Athletic shots or excited students in the stands tend to catch the eye more. Remember, you are interrupting someone’s social media experience. Use that opportunity to make an impression.

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Always Be Testing

When advertising in Instagram and Facebook, we create at least two different ads to see how they perform against a particular segment. We’ll create one with just an image, one with a CTA button. This way we can save a results database and make sure that we are always improving.

What have you found that works with your Instagram advertising. Tell us about it in the comments!

Improve Your Brand’s Performance

From crafting a unique story that uncovers your key messages to creating the buzz that sets you apart, building and maintaining a successful brand is no easy feat for an educational institution. Is your school up to the challenge? Of course it is – so take a deep breath and follow our tips for taking your brand to the next level.

Top 10 Tips Brand Banner

Know your audience.

What matters most to them? Start with a solid foundation of market research to bring clarity and focus to your branding efforts.

Know thyself.

What sets you apart from the rest? Identify your distinctive qualities and develop a message that highlights those strengths.

Make a promise.

Let your brand promise be your guide. Strive to meet and exceed expectations at every level of communication.

Be authentic.

Authenticity speaks volumes. Brands that tell a genuine, honest story will resonate with your students, build trust and make a connection.

Be consistent.

Your brand represents who you are. Regardless of the medium, consistency is key to building recognition, familiarity and trust.

Create brand ambassadors.

An engaged and passionate internal audience is the key to brand awareness. Let your faculty, staff and students be your voice.

Be inspired.

Inspire your students by taking risks. When you explore new and creative ways to connect with your audience, you strengthen your brand.

Be data-driven.

Just remember success takes time. Conduct surveys, focus groups and interviews to gain insights of the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Build community.

Invite your audience to be a part of your story. Every tweet, post, like or share extends your brand’s reach exponentially. Encourage it.


An updated brand deserves some buzz. So celebrate your institution on campus: throw a party, print new t-shirts, make a splash. Incorporate elements of your new brand into every marketing effort.

Download the Top 10 Tips to Improve your Brand’s Performance

If you are in the Atlanta area and would like to learn more about our brand process and what it could do for your institution please join us at Brand Camp August 26th. Sign up today! 

5 Proven Marketing Methods for Increasing your HBCU Class

5 Proven Marketing Methods for Increasing you HBCU ClassI worked in undergraduate admissions for nine years, and the majority of those years were spent at Morehouse College in Atlanta, a historically black college for men founded in 1867. Aside from trying to convince young men from across the country and throughout the world to attend a single sex institution, the biggest worry of each year was “will we make the number?” Or in other words, would we hit our enrollment goals for the recruitment cycle?

In today’s higher education landscape, competition is fiercer than ever. After recent changes in the credit standards of financial assistance through PLUS, HBCU’s experienced a decline in enrollment, the biggest in first-year students.*  As a result of this, it’s going to take a sophisticated, varied and integrated marketing approach to reach the desired population that will not only apply to your institution, but that will confirm and later enroll.

With sights set on the fall classes of 2016 and 2017, its never too early to get some advice, direction and a new game plan for the next classes of students that will inhabit your college or university.

In our conversation, we’ll be discussing Research, Student Search, Digital View Books, Publications and Integrated Marketing Campaigns, and how each of these assets can help you increase your class.

Far too seldom do colleges and universities take the time to conduct market research on themselves. This extremely valuable information will enable data-driven analysis that is necessary to make your marketing and recruitment efforts more effective and take the guesswork out of your approach.

Student Search is the name of the game. Differentiate your institution with a clearly defined, organized and systemic schedule of messages in the digital and print space, as well as poignant, pointed and substantial messaging should be a big step in recruiting your class, and meeting and exceeding your recruitment goals.

The same publications year in and year out gets old, and become ineffective. A fresh way to look at how to create publications will be discussed, and more importantly, all of the different types of publications that are necessary to speak to all of the populations needed to increase your class.

There will always be a place for print in higher education marketing, however, how an institution markets itself digitally is becoming of paramount importance. Digital View Books are where this medium is headed, and not only are they an innovative and new perspective on the look and feel of an institution, they are so much more cost effective than print, can be altered in far less time, and their activity and effectiveness can be measured.

Using all of the strategies together in an Integrated Marketing Campaign will show that your institution is serious about recruiting and marketing to the desired populations of students, parents and counselors. Our conversation will cover how IMCs work, and how, regardless of the size of your institution, a campaign can be tailored for your school’s needs.

During the discussion you will learn how you can join other top-ranking HBCUs who have partnered with TWG Plus, such as Spelman College, Morehouse College, North Carolina A&T State University, Morgan State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Talladega College and Clark Atlanta University to name a few.

On Wednesday, June 24th at 2pm EST, we’ll discuss concrete and substantial methods to increase your HBCU class. Join us for the discussion by registering here.

*Source: Top Strategic Issues Facing HBCUs, Now and into the Future. A report by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges