Story Telling vs. Traditional Marketing – Higher Education Outreach Strategy

May 31, 2018 | Vikram Shetty

What are the aspects we consider while making any life choices? Whether it is something as mundane as buying a mobile phone or crucial as selecting a university, we make the choice based on a good feeling about it, this is even before we consider the pros and cons. Studies have shown that personal experiences and feelings are critical factors that influence individuals. People primarily make their decision based on a relatable narrative and a good story has the power to do just that. Research shows that if you hear an explanation describing an entity, you would just remember 10% of it in the next three days, but if you were shown a story of an entity, you would retain 65% of the information after three days. The human brain is programmed to remember information presented like stories, and that is why stories stand the test of time. This is the exact reason why we remember most of the stories we’ve heard as children, so much so that they have been passed down through generations.

Advertisement companies have long realised this and made their customer the focus by advertising in a storytelling format. Placing the customers in the centre, they create a story to explain how the product can make people’s life better. They know that stories have the potential to communicate messages in a highly effective and emotionally impactful way. Especially when we are taking a decision that concerns our lives or the other lives of our loved ones, we always strive to make choices that are safe and relatable. There are many examples of some of the biggest companies using a story telling format to relate to their audience but Nike especially does an excellent job of it. It has built a brand name that goes beyond just sports gear, their recognisable ‘Just do it’ tagline is far too familiar to all of us. It has many initiatives that are nation building, and over time have created a brand that stands for social change hence creating an impression in people’s minds that Nike is a force for good in the world.

Education institutions have failed to adopt a more engaging marketing strategy

Just like food, water, clothing and shelter, education has become one of the basic necessities in the 21st century. So, it should not be very hard to engage students to join a school and peruse an education, yet it does not seem to be the case. When we take a closer look, discouraging statistics across the education sector in Asia tell us a horrifying tale, an alarming increase in student dropout rates in many countries. We need to understand why this bleak reality has come to pass and how education institutions have failed to adopt a dynamic outreach strategy. Many of the schools and universities have always opted for traditional marketing have been previously been successful, but in most cases they have had to rely on the word of mouth to carry home the message. While it was easy to create a good impression in the minds of the students and teachers in the past, due to advancements in the mass media industry, institutions need to do much more to compete in the ever-changing and competitive education landscape. Traditional advertising methods have failed in the past for a wide range of reasons including:

  • Monologues describing the university are not as powerful as real stories
  • It does not empathise with students and parents about their concerns
  • Using static advertising messages fails to resonate and inspire students
  • Traditional advertising tends to seem more apathetic to the target audiences
  • New formats and ideas in advertising are rarely adopted and implemented

Every educational institute begins with a mission to achieve excellent standards of quality education. We can all agree that for every education institute to succeed in its objective, it has to maintain a good reputation. If you consider the past 3 decades, you’ll see very little change in traditional marketing strategies in the education sector. Over the years it has proven less and less effective in managing a respectable brand value. When we take a closer look, a trend towards a more competitive education system has emerged over the past decade. An increase in the number of schools, colleges, and universities has led to the need for a more vibrant marketing strategy that focuses on creativity and innovativeness.

Adopting a higher education outreach programme that focuses on story telling method will lead to a marketing philosophy that focuses on familiarising eager students with the educational institution.

Powerful stories have the potential to change the world

Educational outreach programmes and strategies are most effective when they keep students as the focus, creating an environment where students and their parents can imagine a bright future.  A story telling format as an outreach strategy can demonstrate empathy for the potential students and their parents’ fears and concerns. It also allows target audience to connect with the educational institution emotionally and better understand its core values and objectives. An engaging outreach programs needs to be an integral part in any educational institution’s marketing strategy as it emphasizes the learning experience, the education system followed by them and student life aspect to the students and their parents. Choosing a story telling format has a lot of advantages including:

  • It is a technique that builds memories and long-lasting brand presence
  • It clearly establishes your core ideals and mission statement
  • It offers the target audience an experience that transcends the mundane
  • It has the potential to make content exciting and engages target audiences
  • It can be a natural motivator for students to enrol in institutions

Storytelling is a vital part of any modern marketing campaign to build your brand. Schools and universities need to master the art of choosing the right marketing strategy. Any good advertising company will tell you when a story is detailed and personalised, it appeals to a larger audience, as it makes the experience real and relatable. Students and their parents are impressionable and a strong story has the potential to positively influence them to make the decision of choosing an education institution that they can relate to and stand behind. Television is currently one of the strongest medium that connects to a large audience and it is perfectly suited to showcase universities in a story telling format. It can be one of the best ways to create emotional relationships and long-lasting bonds with the target audience.

Educational institutions can learn a lot from companies that use storytelling to reach out to their audience and realise it for what it is, an optimal medium to communicate their message and mirror the success that they have achieved. Universities need to appeal to their target audience at an emotional level convey differently from other institutions. Education institutions need to showcase all of the factors that make them great and put in a storytelling format where students can easily relate to and imagine themselves as a part of the institution.

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