Why Brand Building Matters to the Future of Community Colleges

During the month of April, one way Noetic celebrated Community College month was by attending the 2023 American Association of Community Colleges conference and co-presenting alongside the Lumina Foundation on Why Brand Building Matters to the Future of Community Colleges. While at the conference, we met community college leaders from across the country and gained further insight into the challenges and opportunities community colleges face every day. Many of those challenges have direct implications on how a college’s brand is perceived by the public, and we want to share some key takeaways that colleges can adopt to strengthen their brand reach, reputation and perception.

  • Students have a wide range of non-academic needs: From stable housing to having access to food, 62% of community college students recently reported having some form of basic, non-academic need. In turn, colleges should lean into how they message students to convey their understanding of varying life circumstances and how their student experience can flex to meet students where they are.
  • Marketing messaging is not focused on the prospective students: As colleges are using marketing to focus on student acquisition, they frequently tout what the college thinks is important instead of focusing on their prospect student desires. We recommend using the FUTURE framework according to their target prospects:
    • Flexibility: Adult Students can study and attend courses how and when they want.
    • Understanding: Adult Students will be a part of a community of students like themselves who are experiencing life and college in ways they can relate to.
    • Team: Adult Students will have a team of community college staff who understand their unique needs, guide them onto a career-leading path and stay with them throughout their college journey.
    • Utility: Adult Students will be supported with everything from tuition to technology costs, daycare costs, basic needs, etc. and can utilize recognized college credits or prior work experience.
    • Return on Investment: Adult Students will have a multi-faceted return on their time, energy and financial investments.
    • Employability: Adult Students will get the job/career they want.
  • Colleges should lean into storytelling in their marketing: Telling a story can be an incredibly compelling way to communicate a message or make a point. So, whether it’s video content or a student testimonial, colleges should leverage storytelling within their marketing to positively drive student actions.

At Noetic, we are passionate about strengthening brands and the people who build them. If you are interested in building your brand strategy and messaging to reach your target audience, contact us today.