There was a time when advertising and marketing for institutions as revered as colleges and schools was considered blasphemy. Most educational institutions would avoid these ‘salespeople’ altogether, dismissing them as not suitable for the intellectual bastion of society. Education was never equated with business. It was always about recommendations, counselling, and advising students about enrolling at a certain place. Administrators would opine that whether a student chose to attend their university or someone else’s was based more on either legacy, or what the student wanted to learn. Any mention of trying to sell the ‘brand’ was frowned upon.
Not just that, in terms of choices, students had few. Whether they were courses or colleges, there wasn’t much to choose from. You either went where your parents and grandparents did, or somewhere that fit your budget or was close to your home.
Fast forward to a decade later, and now we have a growing acceptance, and even appreciation for how marketing can work wonders for running an educational institution, especially when thousands of schools and colleges are now competing with each other. Moreover, today, educational hubs are also businesses; the Indian education sector is a multi-billion-dollar industry in itself. The word marketing has finally made its way into the campus lexicon.
If you look around, many universities regularly advertise themselves in all leading publications in the country. One may argue that most advertisements are run by private universities, but that’s not true. Even the older, more well-known institutions like the IITs, IIMs, ISB, Delhi University leave no stone unturned in promoting themselves. Whether it is through online ads, participation in rankings on digital and print platforms, the more traditional ‘flyers’ and ‘posters’, or television ads, everyone is doing everything. A lot of universities now even have a head of marketing, or an agency on board to take care of all their promotional needs.
And rightly so. The rigour behind operational efficiencies and performance measurement across universities is much higher than it used to be. Marketing helps manage reputations, achieve enrollment targets, raise funds, hire staff, build community perspective, and even align with key government initiatives. Universities now have to match pace with mainstream, cultural and technological evolution of education. Plus, most universities or schools operate in a similar market and have almost the same consumers, and marketing helps them stand out from the crowd.
More access to information and globalization also means that distance and awareness about options is not a challenge anymore. So increasingly, parents and students are exploring options outside their immediate ecosystem.
And now, with a global crisis hanging on our heads, the role of education is changing drastically. The rapid spread of Coronavirus has changed how millions of children around the globe are educated. With most educational institutions moving their classes online for the foreseeable future, we will witness unprecedented innovations in education. More than theoretical knowledge, students will now lean towards educational institutes that offer avenues of problem solving, creative thinking and most importantly, imbibe adaptability for an unforeseen future.
The pace of change in academic institutions globally has been tediously slow, but we might now see innovative solutions in a short period of time. Which means, now more than ever, educational institutions will have to rely on strong marketing tactics to survive, and thrive. Marketing will not only help them stay on track with their initiatives, but also streamline their processes to ensure they keep moving forward with positive progress in education.