Published on August 17th, 2011 | by drkkr0
THE STUDIED BRAND
The word ‘Brand’ instantly brings to our mind names connected with pedigrees that are a large part of selling something …., and buying it. One does not think of ‘Brand’ when thinking of universities or the quality of education in universities. The word university itself is associated in our minds with ‘research’, ‘masters’ and ‘graduate degrees’ awarded by universities after a specified program or period of study in colleges affiliated to them.
A great deal of employment is secured by the reputation of the university rather than on the actual degree. If we treat, employment as demand for the product of universities and colleges namely degrees, it will be obvious that employment opportunities are related to the name or brand image of the colleges themselves at a primary level and to the brand image of the university under which they come at a secondary level. Unfortunately, college and university authorities simply do not pay sufficient attention to creating and developing their brand images.
The prevalent thinking in India is that brands belong to the world of business. They fail to realize that in an era of self financing colleges, on-line education and foreign tie ups, the creation of brand images even for educational institutions is of paramount importance. A large number of colleges produce the same degrees at the same levels at the same disciplines. Degrees are the product outputs of the universities. Thousands of factories make miillions of shoes but Nike is the synonym of high-performance shoes in the minds of the large majority all over the world and the aspiration of those who cannot afford it, because Nike has created and developed a brand image, which is equated in the mind of the customer with excellent quality. The stewards of Indian education do not take cognizance of the fact that the degrees of IIMs, IIT’s, Kellogs and MIT are also in greater demand than those from other institutions because of the quality of the experience which the student undergoes in these institutions before getting the same degrees, which are offered else where. In short IIM, IIT etc are brand images, which have been created over the years by these institution.
There is no reason why each institution, under each university should not create such brand images for themselves. Shifting brand images have existed for the universities in the past. Those of us in out mid to late 30’s still remember the clout enjoyed by the Universities of Madras, Calcutta and Bombay. These names were once mentioned with awe and reverence. We also remember the brand image that was created by Shanti Niketan and Aligar Muslim University. With the passage of time and the shift in educational priorities these, universities now have to compete with the newer universities. Some of the American universities are not just powerful global brands, they have the cash to prove it. How much cash? More than some countries in fact. A very recent survey by NACUBO, the National Association of College and University Business offers: “Harvard is right at the top with an endowment estimated at $26 billion bigger than the GDP of Syria, Srilanka and Sudan”. The varsities which follow: Yale (15.2b), (Interestingly yale university, incidentally was started with a modest contribution from Elihu Yale, who was Governor General of Madras in Colonial India), Stanford ($12.2 billion), University of Texas (11.6 billion) and Princeton ($11.2 billion). In all 56 universities in US have more than a billion dollar each as their endowments, and 746 universities and colleges listed in the survey have $294 billion, stamping the fact that education is a huge business in the US, and without a doubt, a business built by strategic branding.
In India it is time we work on the Branding issues of the educational Institutions which will make our institutions. Famous, rich and most sought after educational hub and will certainly become a Global Brand.
It is worth remembering that the brand image and prestige of a university itself depends on the quality of the colleges affiliated to it. Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, former President of India, rightly said:”Character is Destiny”. Just as the character of the individual is the basis of the character of a nation, so to the brand image of an individual department is the basis of the brand image of the institution and that in turn is an index of the quality of the university itself.
A quick focus on a few points will help to show how the brand image of an institution can be created and developed.
1. The focus in an institution should be on the experience that the student undergoes in an institution. Everything from the classroom to the play fields through the seminars and conferences should contribute
to the creation of a student of quality whose quality will add to the value of the degree obtained by the student,
2. The college or the university should stand for a single, simple idea that can be communicated to each student and authority of the institution. This will help to create a sense of belonging and involvement, which is an essential fundamental factor in the building of a brand.
3. This single basic motivating idea should also help to make the entire college speak in one voice. This process can be aided by involving the alumni in the functioning of the Institution, and offset the current tendencies to lean heavily on large governmental grants. In due course with careful planning, the alumni could supply the funding necessary for running courses. This approach would also help the colleges and universities to enhance the brand building process.
4. Colleges and universities are collections of Individuals, who come together by dint of circumstance and happenstance but this can be turned into a dynamic of serendipiti — it can be used to develop strong, emotionally productive bonds over a period of time, informed by proper motivation and clear objectives. Indeed, the manufacturing organizations which create brands are a similar collection of people whose quality of work is reflected in the branded products that they produce. Similarly the college or universities managed with the single idea of creating an experience of quality will develop a brand of students,who will make a mark in society. The success of a brand lies in the quality of a product. Similarly the prestige of a college or university (its brand) lies in the quality of its students. It stands to reason that in the highly competitive and fund hungry environments that inform the educational scene of today, it is imperative that authorities and policy makers in colleges and universities pay more attention to the creation of brand images for their respective institutions. Brand images are the panacea for failing funds and paucity of funds, and strong branding will play a large role in reversing the current trend towards empty coffers and may just help usher in a golden age for Indian education.