Marketing News Archive

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The August 2018 issue of Marketing News is now available.

The emergence of the CMO in higher education may signal to some that universities and colleges are finally getting in step with market-oriented customer centricity. That may be true, but being a late bloomer has its advantages, too. 

Higher education is under siege. Throughout history, there has been an ebb and flow of bundling and unbundling products and services. Some have tried to reinvent themselves by bundling, such as marketing services and advertising agencies. No space has been more disrupted by unbundling than higher education. 

I recently read of a Harvard student who claims to play hooky from his classes while he builds his professional skills through online courses from the Khan Academy. Even the most venerable institutions are offering unbundled products and services separate from their degree programs. 

The old mantra, “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will” has evolved to, “If you don’t unbundle yourself, someone else will.” The key to unbundling is the rebundling you are liberated to pursue—not just with your previously bundled elements, but with other organization’s unbundled assets through partnerships and alliances. That’s a pragmatic response. 

Still some ask if the four-year degree program is headed for extinction. Not necessarily. Institutions of higher education can avoid becoming sentimental artifacts by understanding what aspects of their offerings are most vulnerable to disruption by unbundled competitors. 

Drawing on a framework developed by Fidelis Education, the high-level benefits of an institution can be divided into four segments: knowledge acquisition, gaining employable skills, access to opportunities and personal transformation. Decide which of these are most susceptible to disruption by unbundled, digital substitutes and other threats. 

I think a bit differently than Fidelis when assessing risk points. The most obvious benefit of higher education that is at risk is knowledge acquisition. Unbundled options are overrunning less agile institutions with more accessible, lower-cost alternative delivery channels and platforms for knowledge attainment. 

The next benefit at risk would be gaining employable skills. In these two groups of benefits, your institution needs to fight fire with fire. Launch unbundled products and services as a first mover or fast follower. Be sure any fast-follower ideas are improvements on those of the first movers.

On the latter two benefits (access to opportunities and personal transformation), the defense is sharp, relevant differentiation. Marketers can achieve this through experience design. 

Experience design is both your best defense and offense to differentiate your institution. It can play an integral role in making professional opportunities accessible through the credibility of your institutional brand and the many relationships formed during school and after graduation. Alumni networks and derivative affiliations can all be part of an intentional experience design that can fortify the conventional model of higher education against unbundled interlopers.

Be sure to look for the next edition of Marketing News, which will be all about experience design. You’ll hear from several expert contributors, including yours truly and my patented mathematical representation of the 21st century brand. 

Brand = Experience Story

Russ Klein

CEO


Marketing connects people. It allows them to find just the right product or service to fulfill their needs. Whether that be a college degree or the right pair of headphones, marketers are the only force standing between the right customer and the right product. 

Higher education can be largely out of reach for low-income Americans. But the University of Michigan is working to bridge that gap—and advance the diversity of perspectives and socioeconomics on its campuses. Go Blue Guarantee is a program that spreads the word about U of M’s robust financial-aid packages directly to those who need it most. U of M’s Kedra Ishop spoke to Sarah Steimer about how the university is breaking down financial aid step by step, so families can navigate the typically technical, confusing application process and take full advantage of aid. Marcom to the rescue. 

Longtime columnist Lawrence Crosby lays out an interesting, albeit controversial, thesis in this month’s column. Since student tuition finances the research coming out of business schools, those schools have a responsibility to provide relevant, actionable research to the marketing-practitioner community. Much academic research, Crosby argues, is theoretical in nature, adding only to the echo chamber of academia. He urges business schools to recall their obligation to their students and the marketplace: to produce research that can inform and inspire best practice. 

How have you seen the relationship between academics and practitioners evolve?

Molly Soat

Editor in Chief​




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