With students set to face rising cost of living and higher university fees from January – coupled with increased scepticism over the ROI of a university degree – universities are under considerable pressure to find new ways to appeal to the Gen Z market.
Where universities in the past have relied on traditional marketing, these fundamentals have proved ineffective in reaching 16-24 year olds.
Now higher education marketers are upping investment in branding themselves to stand out from the crowd and in creative strategies to attract students like never before.
Kantar TNS today released its syndicated research findings that identify the most influential touchpoints where high schoolers and their parents interact with university brands. The research is an industry first and aims to help guide the significant investment of both time and money that Uni’s are making into influencing the ‘path-to-enrolment’.
“For most students, selecting a university is easily one of the most important decisions and biggest investments they are likely to make in their life,” said Ryan France, head of brand and communications at Kantar TNS. “It’s a highly involved process, and so much of what came to light from our research is that the majority of universities are not communicating to students in a way they prefer.”
The study measured 35 touchpoints – including the influence of university open days, TV commercials, brochures, social media and discussions with friends and family – to be able to give higher education marketers better and more specific clarity into what is working and where future investment should be made.
Some key insights from the report include:
- TOP INFLUENCES: The most influential touchpoints proved to be ones that are experiential and/or rely on word-of-mouth: open day, speaking with friends and speaking with family topped the chart.
- EFFORTS WASTED: On average 1/3 of interactions with students deliver 2/3 of ROI. This means that as much as 2/3 of marketing efforts and investment are potentially being wasted.
- OWNED CHANNELS VITAL, BUT COMMUNICATIONS NEED HELP: Touchpoints such as the university brochure and the university website ranked in the top 1/3, yet most students are frustrated by the experience of text-heavy websites and sterile imagery and video that do not depict reality.
- SOCIAL MEDIA NOT EFFECTIVE: Paid advertising through social media did not hold sway with students. This was a surprise finding given the amount of time Gen Z spends on social channels and the marketing dollars spent on these platforms.
- PARENTS STILL TRADITIONAL: Paid media has a relatively larger impact on parents – which means advertisements in TV commercials, newspapers, magazines and billboards should be relevant to this audience.
“We recognised the lack of market intelligence for university marketers to base decisions on and designed this study to get as close to reality as possible,” said France. “We can now start to track these influences over time, and be very specific to each university’s program and objectives.”