Sustainability Promotion and Branding: Messaging Challenges and Possibilities for Higher Education Institutions
This paper reports on case study research into six higher education institutions (three in the UK and three in the USA) that give prominence to their sustainability credentials in their paper form and/or electronic promotional and recruitment materials. The purpose of the research was to draw important lessons and identify significant issues concerning the sustainability branding and marketing of higher education institutions. Key findings include, first, the importance of calibrating sustainability marketing according to actual sustainability performance while also embracing a sustainability vision; second, the importance of combining internal with external marketing; third, the importance of institutional clarity in determining marketing parameters; fourth, the advantages of marrying broad-based ‘subtle’ marketing with intensive niche and segment marketing. It was found, too, that higher education institutions with a sustainability brand are not collecting systematic data to assess marketing impact on student recruitment, or utilizing the sustainability/employability interface to good marketing effect, or employing a multi-dimensional conception of sustainability in their marketing. There is clear evidence of the stirrings of movement away from paper-form towards electronic marketing across the cases considered. An overarching insight of the study is that rigorous institutional engagement with marketing sustainability credentials can have a significant impact on the quality and depth of sustainability performance by helping spread, enrich and diversify the institutional sustainability culture.
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