2016 Marketing Trends for Higher Education


2016 Marketing Trends for Higher Education

Dec 14, 2015By Mallory Willsea

Last month, at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education, I had the unique pleasure of sitting down with a few of our industry’s top thought leaders. I wanted to know where they think higher education marketing is headed for 2016. Here are the three trends we identified.

1. Challenging and Disrupting The Status Quo

Recent research, conducted in partnership with Chegg, illustrates that institutions must challenge the status quo, including accepted wisdom about how teens communicate with colleges, in order to continue to attract right-fit students. The resulting white paper, Mythbusting Admissions, identifies a number of areas where the expectations and needs of prospective teens are out of sync with those of admission professionals who are seeking to recruit them.

Rebecca Bernstein, director of strategy and digital communications at the University at Buffalo, questions traditional higher education communication channels and discusses the importance of disruption.

When an institution starts to challenge its traditional ways of communicating with key audiences, it often becomes clear that reorganization is necessary to build the most effective team possible. Rachel Reuben, formerly the vice president of communications at Colgate University, does an excellent job on Inside Higher Ed of explaining the importance of organizing a team into fewer silos and focused on greater success. I believe we’ll see many institutions consider or start to make changes to their team structures in the coming year.

Deborah Maue, newly appointed vice president of strategic marketing and communications at Columbia College Chicago, is reorganizing her team around a content-first model. She also wrote about how she’s achieving the right structure on Inside Higher Ed.

2. Data-Driven Decisions

I don’t think it comes as a surprise that higher ed will continue to increase its emphasis on gathering and using data to drive decisions on how to spend marketing and communications dollars. Marketers must optimize the channels that are performing best to better position their institutions.

Joel Pattison, director of strategy at mStoner, and Seth Odell, vice president of creative and marketing services at Helix Education, sound off on this topic.

3. Customer Experience

We’ve seen growing recognition of the importance and necessity of providing a better customer experience for students through improved communication, particularly during the recruiting process.

On a recent Marketing Live episode, host Amy Jorgensen noted that, “Excellent customer service is the most significant influence on consumer brand perception.” And Deb Maue shared five ways institutions can improve customer service on Inside Higher Ed in September.

It’s no surprise that Amy’s Marketing Live co-host, Rob Zinkan, also focused on customer service as a major trend that higher ed marketers should pay attention to … with a slightly different twist.


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