Brand Strategy & Management

Since the early 1980s, we’ve helped universities, colleges, and schools create, manage, and invigorate authentic and compelling academic brands through our brand research, strategy, and communications programs.   We expertly and pragmatically tailor resources to your requirements, to assess current brand performance; expand visibility and amplify reputation; directly support student marketing, alumni engagement, and fundraising; and competitively position for exceptional value.


Brand Baseline Research

Purpose: Create a deep understanding of audiences’ perceptions of your reputation, identity, and communications to drive brand planning, development, and creatives.

Method: Cost-effective survey research that targets the full range of your brand segments, from prospective and current students through alumni and donors.

Outcomes: Statistically rigorous analyses and documentation of your brand relationships, strengths, and development opportunities for your institution’s brand and its extensions according to audience segments.

Brand Strategy & Architecture

Purpose: Build a coherent brand platform that communicates exceptional educational value in support of student and program marketing, fundraising, and engagement.

Method: Systematic, research-driven approach that starts with a differentiating brand concept and results in detailed messaging maps for all major audience segments.

Outcomes: A comprehensive brand system that coheres and documents your brand essence, brand archetype, brand promise, brand drivers, audience personas, messaging system, personality traits, reputational cues, brand extensions, and implementation guidance – all necessary components for your “brand book” and to inform brand creatives.

Communications Strategy

Purpose: Craft a coherent communications plan to roll out a new brand, to refresh a current brand, or to make targeted improvements in visibility, reputation, and brand equity.

Method: An efficient planning process that determines the strategies, channels, and resources that can promote and embed the brand among targeted markets and audiences.

Outcomes: A strategic brand communications plan that delineates key audience personas, communications strategies and channels to reach those audiences, production and communications schedules, resource organization and budget, and monitoring and evaluation systems.

Longitudinal Assessment

Purpose: Evaluate the performance of the academic brand among its target audiences in order to determine areas for improvements, rebranding, and brand extensions.

Method: An opinion research study among pertinent audiences that assesses the importance and performance of your brand components against baseline.

Outcomes: A statistically reliable appraisal of the academic brand’s current performance overall and among targeted audiences, as summarized in a “brand scorecard,” as well as determinations of where to promote, evangelize, elevate, and extend brand themes and components.


Audience Segmentation Schema.  We use a combination of analytical routines, business intelligence tools, and qualitative research methods to delineate your principal audience segments and discern their chief geodemographic and psychometric characteristics.

Brand Personas. We use both quantitative and qualitative research and workshopping techniques to help you craft, test, and refine vivid brand personas for your student, family, alumni, and donor segments, so that you can target your brand messaging, marketing, and digital and recruitment experiences to develop and sustain interest, connectivity, and loyalty.

Survey Design and Administration.  For more than 25 years, we have been designing, managing, and analyzing brand opinion surveys that are customized for our clients’ specific needs, yield statistically representative samples, and provide the exact information needed for brand strategy, communications, and assessment.

Competitor Positioning Research.  Our in-depth research of your competitors’ brand strategy, brand books, websites, reputational ratings, and institutional and program positioning provides you with a thorough understanding of the competitie ecosystem in which to differentiate your brand value.

Brand Canvas.  Use our Brand Canvas template to visualize how your brand attributes and messaging align with your audiences’ functional, affective, reputational, and constraint requirements, and as a tool for brand training and execution across the institution.

Factor Grouping Analyses. We use sophisticated statistical techniques, such as factor grouping analyses and post-hoc test of means, to organize brand attributes, messaging, traits, and positioning under thematic categories or “drivers,” in order to effectively target and engage your audience segments in ways most meaningful for them.

Brand Creatives Testing.  Before you go public with your brand, we can field-test alternative brand creatives – taglines, positioning language, messaging, logo, visuals, imagery, and sample print, digital, and web applications – to make sure they resonate with your targeted audiences.

Brand Scorecard.  Our proprietary brand scorecard methodology visually identifies the importance and performance of your brand attributes and personality traits generally and for each audience segment, measures change over time, and pinpoints where you want to invest in brand evangelization and promotion.


Crafting a dual university and campaign brand

The Challenge:  Create a research-informed brand architecture and communications strategy to drive the national expansion of one of the Southeast’s fastest-growing public universities, along with a brand platform and messaging to launch a major fundraising campaign.

The Engagement:  A comprehensive program of brand research, development, and implementation: brand baseline research; interview research of key influencers; audience segmentation schema; institutional brand platform development; campaign brand platform development; testing and refinement of brand taglines and creatives; brand documentation (electronic brand book); and brand roll-out and communications strategies.

The Results:  The new brand has provided students, parents, alumni, and faculty with an authentic way to  talk about their university, as evidenced when last year’s incoming first-year students adopted the brand tagline as their class motto.  In the initial year of its public phase, the university’s major fundraising campaign raised a record amount of gifts from alumni and donors and is ahead of schedule for reaching its goal.

Refreshing a university brand for market expansion

The Challenge:  Determine how a research university should refine and enhance its five-year-old brand in order to build its overall academic standing, strengthen the reputation of its professional schools and programs, and support student market expansion.

The Engagement:  A thorough yet cost-effective longitudinal research study to gauge performance against the institutional brand’s original goals and objectives; supplemental research to investigate and determine key brand elements and extensions for the university’s seven colleges and schools and its three locations; collaboration with the division of marketing and communications and external communications counsel on brand “refresh” strategies and creatives.

The Results:  The university’s brand platform, creatives, and tagline have been thoroughly refreshed.  A new brand “scorecard” guides implementation, communications, and monitoring.  Brand extensions and messaging promote each academic college or school in accordance with the umbrella institutional brand.  New brand components will help launch a division of extended and online learning.

Repositioning a liberal arts college for a new strategic vision

The Challenge:  Craft a brand positioning strategy that honors the mission, values, and traditions of a well-established religiously sponsored liberal arts college – while elevating its reputation for a distinctive undergraduate curriculum designed for the contemporary professions.

The Engagement:  A “deep-dive” market analysis of the brand positioning, messaging, and attributes of the college alongside its chief regional competitors; an integrated program of qualitative focus-group and quantitative survey research of students and parents (current and prospective), alumni, faculty/ staff, employers, and community leaders; market segmentation schemas for student and donor populations; an institutional repositioning strategy and brand messaging system.

The Results:  The repositioning strategy is presently launching a new strategic plan, the “quiet” phase of a major fundraising campaign, student market expansion, national promotion of the college’s academic rankings, and initiation of graduate programs – while deepening connections to the enduring traditions and values of the school’s sponsoring religious order.

Let’s talk educational value

We enjoy strategic conversations on how universities, colleges, and schools can enhance their academic value through actionable research, robust business planning, compelling brand strategy, and effective performance.


Pepper Pike, OH

© 2023 Prescience Associates, LLC

Pepper Pike, OH
© 2023 Prescience Associates, LLC