I’ve often said that much of our automobile brand experience doesn’t just take place in the car but in the dealership. It’s where you buy and get your vehicle serviced that often manifests the brand experience. This is why back in the 90′s I bought Infiniti(s) — they created well designed dealerships (and were early providers of the now near industry-standard roadside assistance and loaner vehicle).
Similarly we often say that your admissions office or visitor center space is the first, often the longest and last impression of your school. The importance of the campus visit and campus visitors are both on the increase. This crucial first “impression” is why so many schools are investing in new or renovated spaces. (Click here to see an online album of some of our favorites.)
At TargetX we often say, “Look outside of higher education” to see market trends and best practices. One industry to look at is the auto industry because they have the money to spend on consumer research. When GM’s largest brand, Chevrolet says it’s time to improve and invest in the dealership experience what they’re really saying is, “It’s all about the experience” or “The experience IS the marketing”. They are so committed to the dealer experience that they sent their dealers to Disney Institute, as reported in Advertising Age’s “Can Chevrolet Run the Happiest Dealerships on Earth?“, to get them to buy into the sense of place they want to create at their dealerships. Yes GM has improved design and quality, but if the dealership feels like the old, problematic GM it’s not a great total brand experience.
Similarly you can have the nicest residence halls, fitness center and new science building; but if my tour starts and ends in a small, cramped admissions office housed in an administration built during the height of the Cold War (with limited parking and tiny restrooms to match) what kind of experience are your prospective families having and remembering?
Read more about our authors. Jeff is the VP of the Consulting Division and also known as the “Apostle of Authenticity.” He crisscrosses the country speaking at conferences and working with our clients. He’s driven by a mission to inspire higher education executives and admissions offices to overthrow dead culture, embrace their authentic “DNA” and render engaging experiences.