Monday, September 15, 2008

Loyola College Marketing and Branding Initiative

A representative from the marketing firm Simpson Scarborough came to speak and discuss the recent initiative here at Loyola to expand the college`s appeal to diverse groups of prospective students. In order to do this effectively, market researchers interpreted the results of surveys taken by a number of groups with varying levels of involvement in and association with Loyola College. The goal of the surveys was to uncover what makes Loyola different from similar universities. Researchers at Simpson Scarborough turned to graduates, undergraduates, faculty, staff, and board members, among others, in order to obtain the desired diverse responses that would allow the unique benefits of a Loyola education to be pinpointed.

After giving a brief overview of the general purposes of the research, some marketing jargon was introduced to us, namely branding and positioning. Essentially branding is what something is, inclusive of all things associated with the given thing. In this case, the brand was Loyola College, which includes everything about the school, from the campus to the dorms, to the sports teams, its Jesuit identity, and academic offerings. The next bit of marketing lingo presented was positioning, or what something hopes to be. The research was performed to determine what positioning would best help to market Loyola College in the most appealing way possible.

Three questions were asked at the onset of the research. They were 1. Who wants what out of Loyola? 2. What does Loyola do well? and 3. What do competitors of Loyola College not do well?. These three inquiries into the Loyola College environment allowed researchers to formulate a number of possible positioning strategies, which could then be presented and decided upon based on survey results. As marketing agents, the researchers hoped to position Loyola so as to create a Loyola brand name that communicates quality. Many current member of the Loyola community, including undergraduates and faculty, voted for a community service related option as the top contributor to the Loyola community, noting that "students learn to impact positive change. Obviously, as a Jesuit institution, it appears proper for this to be the first thing that two separate groups of equal involvement in the school see as a campus-wide trend.

However, the opportunities to be a well-rounded person and Loyola`s ability to mold students as such unanimously topped the charts as the most desirable feature for a school like Loyola to possess. Also, in doing so, the school essentially absorbs all the other notable characteristics that made up the other options. For instance, an extensive academic advising program, a beautiful campus, and a large community service department come together to form a well-rounded individual. In fact, the chosen positioning strategy was titled "The Whole U." Loyola`s ability to consistently produce well-rounded individuals and dispatch them into the real world was decisively what made Loyola most unique. Differentiation, the researcher emphasized, is key to branding.

The lecture then proceeded into a discussion onto what exactly the audience believed well-roundedness to be. The most common description told of a person who was athletic and social but knew when to study and focus on academics and still managed to do some community service, which had been influenced by a strong religous faith. Once these descriptions were given, I had to agree that Loyola did a good job in molding well-rounded individuals. A number of Loyola students immediately came to mind, and it eventually occurred to me that it seemed very close to the norm here at school. I found it interesting that despite a subject that seemed purely business related in nature eventually reverted back to the Jesuit ideals stressed at Loyola. The fact that the most effective positioning strategy as supported by empirical qualitative data reflects Loyola`s commitment to education of the whole person was one emphasizing Loyola`s ability to form well-rounded individuals shows how good of a job the college does.

As we have been discussing in the class, barriers often come between a person and their goal. How a person deals in such a predicament is a testament to his or her character. I believe that Loyola`s continuing commitment to the education of the whole person will allow its graduates to possess the knowledge and creativity necessary to tackle these borders that may appear. This goes for any situation that they may encounter in life, whether it be job related, family issues, or morality. Loyola`s current branding initiative guarantees that the school`s commitment to well-roundedness should not be left out any time soon.

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