What Billboards Can Teach Us

I recently drove a stretch of well-traveled highway between Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I was heading to one of our educational clients and drove that 70 mile, well-worn stretch of Interstate 40. During my drive, I paid increasingly close attention to the number and frequency of billboards promoting college and universities across the region. Honestly, there must have been at least 20 billboards that I saw along my drive, but I am sure there were many that I missed.

As I drove, I paid attention to the the key message, or what each college or university was promoting. And, along the way, I learned that nearly every college was saying, in a nutshell, the same thing. My version of what I saw along the way:

  • Key Message #1 : “We’re affordable”.

  • Key Message #2: “We’re easy to access, delivering programs on your terms, schedule, etc.”

  • Key Message #3: “We’re accelerated; you can start early and finish early."

Billboards can teach us a lot if we are open to understanding the big picture of what they are saying. In my drive, while each of the colleges and universities were different, these billboards were reflecting the same true needs of the consumer and marketplace. Our next generation of consumer wants 1) affordability, 2) accessibility, and 3) accelerated paths to their future. My simple content analysis of billboards revealed industry sector trends.