May 7, 2014

Why Advertising Doesn’t Build Enrollment

Among one of the greatest fallacies regarding marketing for independent schools and colleges is the concept that advertising increases enrollment. Research and experience tells us that it just doesn’t work that way. Here’s why.

Advertising is a form of indirect marketing. Most advertising falls in the category “interruptive” marketing. This means the message is designed to interrupt a consumer activity to pay attention to new message through advertising medium. The problem with interruptive marketing is simply the consumers don’t make choices about such important things as education due to a marketing message. It is highly unlikely the consumer will change their orientation about educational philosophy based upon an interruptive marketing message. Research tells us that most consumers pay very close attention to what other people say in regards to educational choices and word-of-mouth marketing is the most prominent way in which their choices become shaped.

So, does advertising playing important role in the overall marketing scheme of the school or college? Sure, but predominantly to raise awareness and visibility, not in terms of building enrollment. Stick with direct marketing choices or word-of-mouth or viral efforts in order to shape enrollment and demand. 

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  1. Ryan B on June 11, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Ian great points about "word-of-mouth" and "promoters" being the most effective "advertisement" for driving enrollment. Have any data or insight on how effective an online "retargeting" ad is for k-12 space? It it typically more relevant to the user but still some what interruptive in nature. Thoughts?

    • Ian Symmonds on June 11, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Not sure we have any good data on this one, but sure is a good question to throw out there for others. My guess is that it is still interruptive in nature, but in line with the decision process.

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