THE ENROLLMENT MANAGEMENT REVIEW
Volume 22, Issue 2 Winter, 2007
Editor: Don Hossler Associate Editors: Larry Hoezee and Daniel J. Rogalski
Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research and Planning
It has been some time since the Enrollment Management Review focused on issues
related to market research, marketing, and branding. This issue begins with a short essay
on branding and marketing and then reviews four articles on topics related to market
research and marketing.
Marketing in Enrollment Management
Recently, branding and marketing have re-emerged in the buzzword lexicon for higher
education as many colleges attempt to recruit more students, enhance their fund raising
efforts, and strive to create more positive institutional images among their key
stakeholder groups. In recent years both Change Magazine and the Chronicle of Higher
Education have carried lengthy articles on branding and marketing. Coordinated
marketing efforts have much to offer colleges and universities, as evidenced by the long
history of successful efforts implemented by admissions and institutional advancement
departments. The concept of branding, however, is a more recent introduction to higher
education. It focuses more on a global institutional strategy (of which marketing is a
part). Fickes (2003) observes that branding is more than a name. It is what an institution
means to potential and current students, donors, alumni, and other important institutional
stakeholders. He notes that branding and positioning play important roles in today’s
student recruitment and it helps to achieve institutional goals. Good branding requires
good market research to develop a unique understanding of the institution which informs
the development of positioning statements to achieve institutional goals.
In a short piece on marketing and branding in the Chronicle of Higher Education (April
30, 2004) Rick Hesel delineates the five key constructs of branding. They include: focus
on product, center on well-defined long term strategic goals, make key decisions about
goals and strategies based upon empirical data, integrate every overarching activity
around these strategic goals, and commit to these goals for the long haul. Robert Moore
(Change Magazine, April/May 2004, pp. 56-61) focuses more specifically on branding
and adds to Hesel’s list. Moore writes that differentiation and positioning are also key
attributes of effective branding. Moore observes that campus stakeholders (faculty,
administrators, and staff) should be involved in the process of finding distinctive
differences in institutions and then positioning the campus on these differences. He too
argues for the use of surveys of alumni, current students, faculty, and staff to identify the
unique characteristics of the institution’s culture and student experiences to help identify
the most salient characteristics of the brand of a college or university.
Hesel also offers a strong critique of the typical marketing and branding efforts on many
campuses in the following section of his article in The Chronicle:
Every few years expensive marketing materials are discarded and others
created, with administrators and marketing consultants churning out new
brands, themes, and images at an alarming rate. Not only is this wasteful,
it is counterproductive. With comparatively meager resources to invest in
marketing and branding, and a transient audience that turns over every few
years, consistency and longevity are essential ingredients of a successful
college marketing effort. (p. B9)
Fickes, Moore, and Hesel all indicate that marketing and branding activities must be
consistent across efforts to raise development dollars and in recruiting students. All
communication efforts with stakeholder groups must emphasize a consistent brand.
While market research and marketing strategies can be universally applied to for-profit
and nonprofit organizations and service, and production-oriented organizations, we posit
that applying the principles of branding can be more complicated. In higher education,
the majority of branding examples offered in the literature focus on small to mid-sized
private colleges and universities. These institutions typically have more focused
missions, tend to be residential, and tend to have a smaller range of academic programs
and services. It has been our experience that as institutional size and complexity
increase, branding efforts also become more complex. If campus policy makers are not
careful, efforts to create a unified brand can even be harmful to individual schools or
programs within a large university system. It is much easier to talk about a set of
concrete, focused, and strategic goals for Kalamazoo College than the University of
Texas. Kalamazoo, for instance, strategically focuses on the curriculum and the ways in
which Kalamazoo transforms student lives through a small student-faculty ratio, a unique
curriculum, and strong study abroad programs. Reaching out to prospective students,
alumni, and donors with this focused set of messages is, as Moore advocates, an
“achievable and believable goal.” (p.59). At the University of Texas at Austin, however,
key stakeholders include a diverse array of groups: the legislature, the Board of Trustees,
the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, alumni, donors, prospective
undergraduate students, prospective graduate students, and so on. This stakeholder
diversity requires messages to be customized as much as possible in order to attain the
desired impact. For example, branding efforts to build support for increased legislative
funding are likely to focus on the university’s contributions to economic growth. The
marketing activities associated with this effort are likely to be noticeably different than
those associated with efforts to recruit undergraduate students. The likelihood of
developing a unique undergraduate curriculum and building support among large
autonomous faculties in schools of business, medicine, arts & sciences, and agriculture,
for example, are not strong. As institutional size and complexity grow, we posit that
branding is more likely to require a more segmented set of activities. There may be an
overarching movement to integrate branding and marketing across an array of efforts to
reach many diverse stakeholder groups; however, this is more likely to be a behind-the-
scenes administrative task rather than a visible supra-branding effort. Efforts to identify
unified marketing messages that are part of a comprehensive branding effort at a large
and diverse research university might very likely result in messages that are so abstract
that they are meaningless.
This critique of branding is not meant to dismiss the potential efficacy of such efforts. It
is intended, however, to identify some of the nuances of branding, marketing, and the
latent problems associated with them if they are applied too simplistically. Almost all
discussions of branding exhort those involved in such efforts to identify the core products
of an institution. As institutional size and complexity increase, this can become a
daunting task. Careful delimiting of branding efforts with an eye toward how to best
coordinate the follow-up marketing activities associated with those efforts may be an
important part of branding at large universities. Textbook branding and marketing efforts
focused on an entire campus are more likely to be successful at smaller colleges.
Fickes, Michael. (March, 2003). Solving the Branding Mystery. College Planning and
Management, 6(3), 16-20.
Hesel, Rick. (April 2004). Know Thyself: 5 Strategies for Marketing a College. The
Chronicle of Higher Education, B9.
Moore, Robert. (April/May, 2004). The Rising Tide: Branding and the Academic
Marketplace. Change, 36(3), 56-61.
Appleton-Knapp, S. L., & Krentler, K. A. (2006). Measuring Student Expectations
andTheir Effects on Satisfaction: The Importance of Managing Student
Expectations. Journal of Marketing Education, 28(3), 254-264.
Market researchers spend considerable time and resources attempting to determine
consumer expectations regarding a wide variety of products and services and then
gauging whether those expectations have been met after purchase. While colleges and
universities have several measures available to gauge the relative satisfaction a student
has with her/his educational experience, many institutions have little sense of the
expectations students bring to their college-going experience and the extent the
fulfillment of those expectations impact students’ sense of satisfaction with their
experience. We include this article more for the implications of its methodological focus
than for the direct utility of its findings for enrollment managers. The results of these
studies demonstrate that research on student expectations and satisfaction may be more
complicated then is often realized.
The authors of this article carried out two separate studies that examined the role student
expectations played in satisfaction with a particular course and investigated whether there
was a difference in the relationship between expectations and satisfaction for students
asked to recall their pre-course expectations at the end of the course and students whose
expectations were measured prior to the start of the course. While the article speaks
specifically to student course expectations and satisfaction, the results provide interesting
food-for-thought for enrollment managers interested in the relationship between student
college-going expectations and student retention, persistence to graduation, and
satisfaction with their educational experience.
Knapp and Krentler ground their studies in the expectancy/disconfirmation paradigm.
The paradigm encompasses four constructs: expectations, performance, disconfirmation,
and satisfaction. Disconfirmation is the term given to discrepancies between a student’s
expectations and perceived reality. The authors point out that there are three possible
disconfirmation outcomes: zero disconfirmation results when perceived reality meets
expectations, positive disconfirmation results when perceived reality exceeds
expectations, and negative disconfirmation results when perceived reality falls below
expectations. The authors carried out two studies with a cohort of students in two
separate semesters. In the first semester, the student cohort was asked to complete a
course evaluation survey administered at the end of the semester that asked students to
recall their expectations for the course and then respond to scaled response statements
regarding their satisfaction with five course-specific issues. The second study, which was
administered during a separate semester, gathered student’s actual expectations
concerning the course at the beginning of the semester. In addition, the second study was
designed to gather student perceptions regarding satisfaction at three different points in
the semester to reduce the potential bias in responses.
While the results of the studies raise many interesting issues regarding student assessment
methodologies, for the purposes of this review, the most relevant result was the
implication that depending on when assessment occurs, levels of student satisfaction can
actually shape recall of expectations. This was particularly evident with the results of the
second study. In the second study, students’ post-course assessment on whether their
expectations were fulfilled did not match their actual levels of positive or negative
disconfirmation gleaned during the semester. The actual levels of positive or negative
disconfirmation were measured by comparing the students’ actual expectations prior to
the course and their perceptions of the course gathered during the last week of the
semester. This result raised questions concerning the expectancy/disconfirmation
paradigm model as students whose expectations were negatively disconfirmed ended up
expressing moderate satisfaction with the course after it was done.
An understanding of how student expectations affect satisfaction is valuable for
enrollment managers because they can exert some control in influencing students’
expectations about their college-going experience through the messages conveyed in
admissions promotional materials, campus visits, and interactions with admissions
representatives. For those enrollment managers interested in researching the relationship
between student expectations for college and their satisfaction with the experience, the
reviewed article indicates that attention must be paid to when and how student responses
are collected as hindsight bias can color results that can be truly informative for
improvement of institutional practices.
Bohling, Timothy, Bowman, Douglas, LaValle, Steve, Mittal, Vikas, Narayandas,
Das, Ramani, Girish, & Varadarajan, Rajan. (2006). CRM Implementation:
Effectiveness Issues and Insights. Journal of Service Research, 9(2). 184-194.
The acquisition, implementation, and use of constituent relationship management tools
(CRMs) are becoming increasingly common on college and universities. Thus, it seems
timely to look at the implementation of CRMs. This article reports on the efforts of a
research team that surveyed nearly 100 businesses to identify effective strategies for
implementing a constituent relationship management tool. A CRM can be used for many
purposes including effective marketing. The group found several factors account for a
Good CRMS allow campuses to segment markets and follow up with communications
that can be tracked historically. Businesses and postsecondary institutions which focus
on marketing their brand may leverage the CRM functionality to build relationships with
a broad audience, carefully tailoring their message to each respective market segment. A
community college might focus different messages on different segments such as dual
enrollees, traditionals, non-traditionals as well as students interested only in personal
Successful CRM implementation requirements follow several broad patterns of support
and activities. The adoption of a CRM occurs most often when a single division
champions the cause. After adoption by the unit addressing a niche cause, the application
of the tool then morphs into resolving other challenges. The confidence of those using
the tool increases over time and as more challenges are presented, the group looks across
the capabilities of the tool to see if it may help there as well.
Another key to implementation relates to how senior management connects the CRM tool
to organizational viability. If they see the functionality as critical to organizational
success, then the tool will receive implementation support. For this alignment to occur,
managers need to see how the CRM initiative ties to company goals - particularly the
recruitment and retention of customers and employees.
The article goes on to show how larger organizations seem better suited to link the
overall marketing strategy with the CRM strategy – a key to effective implementation.
This type of success would lend itself to future resource commitments necessary for
software upgrades and related training. The authors conclude that areas, such as
marketing, must look for metrics to measure the return on investment to continue the
existence of this tool. They also suggest customer churn, revenue per customer, cost-to-
serve customers, and local project-based metrics are indices one should track.
Like other marketing tools, CRMs inherently possess potential that enrollment managers
may leverage. This study helps an enrollment management team consider related CRM
implementation issues that will need to be addressed before the tool is ready to be fully
Goldgehn, L. A. (2004). Generation Who, What, Y? What You Need to Know
About Generation Y. International Journal of Educational Advancement,
As institutional enrollment management efforts have become increasingly sophisticated,
so too have the market segmentation techniques that drive current admissions marketing
and communications strategies. Today, of all the different student market segments
enrollment managers appeal to, the group that arguably garners the most attention in the
literature is Generation Y or the Millenial Generation. Generation Y refers to the group
of 70 million teens and young adults born between 1981 and 2000 that comprise the pool
of traditional-aged undergraduates as well as young adults seeking graduate programs.
Goldgehn’s article attempts to synthesize a wide variety of literature regarding
Generation Y in an effort to compile a comprehensive profile that can be used to improve
marketing and communication efforts aimed at this particular student segment. While
lacking rigorous empirical sources to support several assertions made concerning
Generation Y, the article serves as a good review of the commonly held wisdom
marketing consultants marshal in support of customized marketing efforts aimed at this
student segment. The first half of the article is broken down into several small sections
that discuss the current status of Generation Y, highlights their strength as a consumer
entity, views on product brands, their personal values, their views on peers and mentors,
and, lastly, their views on higher education. The second half of the article provides
recommendations on what institutions should do to market effectively to Generation Y.
According to Goldgehn, Generation Y students approach their college choice process in
much the same way they shop for accessories; their final choice is often influenced by
what the individual determines to be most fashionable, hip, and image-defining. The
author points out that Generation Y students are research-oriented individuals who seek
out information to confirm what they hear and see and are not easily influenced by flashy
marketing schemes and advertisements. Having grown up in a heavily technology-driven
environment, Generation Y spends a considerable amount of time on the computer
checking e-mail, chatting with family and friends, and browsing a variety of Internet
sites. Given their comfort and sophistication with technology, Generation Y students
have high expectations for institutional websites and count on them to be up-to-date, easy
to navigate, and informative. Complicating the characterization of Generation Y is the
author’s converse assertion that Gen Y’ers are also heavily influenced by and routinely
seek peer approval when making decisions. In addition to peers, Generation Y also looks
to adult mentors to provide expertise when students need to be “tipped” toward pursuing
a particular course of action.
The author suggests that colleges and universities can no longer rely on traditional forms
of communication when interacting with Generation Y. Institutions should keep in mind
four key elements when communicating with Gen Y’ers: be real, be raw, be relevant, and
focus on establishing relationships. He contends that institutions that wait until high
school to establish a relationship with prospective students are entering the game too late.
Not only must institutions reach prospective students at an early age, they must be
relevant with their communication. We are uncertain that this is wise advice. Since most
students don’t start thinking about college until their sophomore or even junior year in
college it is unclear that trying to establish a relationship sooner would be effective.
He further suggests that relevancy for high-school-aged students is primarily driven by an
institutional website that is attractive and interactive. From there, colleges and
universities must repeat their message and establish their brand by utilizing the variety of
technologies popular with Gen Y’ers: cell phones, pagers, text messaging, instant
messaging, and chat rooms. Because Gen Y’ers value relationships, they have a stronger
preference for living on campus than previous generations. Goldgehn recommends that
institutions invest in upgrading their residence facilities. In addition to facility upgrades,
it also recommended that institutions make their admissions processes more “cutting
edge” by focusing more on the quality of life that is available to students off-campus such
as local hot spots, shopping, recreation areas, etc.
The challenges of marketing to Generation Y are endless. Just when an institution thinks
it has found a successful strategy, Gen Y’ers perception of what is “hot” changes. This
reality means that institutions must engage in continuous efforts to improve, enhance, and
alter their image as trends change and Generation Y adopts new preferences.
Westman, Craig & Bouman, Penny. (2006). Gamers Go to College. American
Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers: Washington,
The different approaches required to market to baby boomers, Gen X, Gen Y or
Millennials have warranted the attention of seasoned enrollment professionals. Westman
and Bouman argue that Gamers cross all of these generations and will continue to be a
group to consider as long as video games exist. Gamers are technologically astute as they
have immersed themselves in a culture that includes electronic devices such as personal
computers, The Sims (computer game), cell phones, and, now, high definition radio.
This group is socially active while engaging in games with people across the globe,
increasingly made up of females, and representing a market share not to be forgotten. To
understand their unique interests and worldviews, enrollment managers would be wise to
pick up a copy of this small book.
For those not convinced that your recruiting efforts need to take Gamers into
consideration (you probably are over age 34 and did not have a strong gaming influence
during your formative years), the authors provide the following highlights: gamers
bought 110 million GameBoy Nintendo devices, enough Sony Playstations to cover ¼ of
the U.S. home market, and Microsoft spent nearly a billion dollars marketing the Xbox
video game console. If you still are not persuaded, walk into any residence hall on the
weekend just after lunch time and listen for the characteristic sounds of games. You will
find many of your college students are spending their money and time playing electronic
Higher education officials already keyed in on the gamer generation profile need not read
the rest of this summary; however, a few staples for the rest of us may facilitate plans that
will yield results throughout various parts of the student life cycle.
The average game player age is 33. Thirty-one percent of the group is age 18 or
under and forty-four percent are 18 – 49.
Helicopter parents play games with their children and believe the games have
brought the family closer together.
Thirty-eight percent of game players are female.
Strategy computer games sold the best in 2005.
Gamers easily translate 2-D visual images into 3-D, create mental maps across
multiple dimensions, inductively reason, and respond quickly to unexpected
stimuli. They value creativity and community.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) reports Gamers are active, well-
rounded individuals with rich lives. They spend significant time (more than 23
hours/week) exercising or playing sports, reading, and volunteering. Imagine
recruiting a broadly diverse class using gamer tendencies in the application
review and then retaining them by holding events such as a local area network
The chapter entitled “Higher Education Got Game?” offers a number of practical
examples of institutions taking their game to this transgeneration. For example, Franklin
and Marshall College offers a fresh, humor-laden approach to reaching gamers by
bringing to life the College’s namesakes. This tactic has resulted in students viewing Ben
Franklin and John Marshall as caricatures. One of the intended results is that gamers
keep spreading the word on how these two historical figures journey through the campus
experience in Pennsylvania. Cal Poly and Calvin College are also noteworthy examples,
as they also specifically market to gamers and their parents.
Overall, the book moves slowly at times, especially if you are looking for anything close
to an executive summary on this psychographic market segment. However, it is possible
that we reacted this way because as non-gamers, many of the examples did not resonate
with our understanding. A whole new language is introduced and the book actually
requires more than one reading to gain a greater sense of the applications one could make
in an institutional setting. To see the big picture, it may be more useful to ask some of
your senior staff members to play with actual games instead of encouraging them to read
the book. For those who really want to break it down though, the rather large appendix
provides a glossary and other examples to complement the body of the work. Overall, we
recommend the contribution to you.