• Issue #3

Marketing Budgets are Ballooning

A couple of hot air balloons soar in the sky at sunset.

Good morning!

This week, ballooning marketing costs and Meta frustrations.

Thanks for being here.

Marketing Budgets are Ballooning. Does your department need to keep up?

This article is from last year, but I can’t help thinking about it from time to time. On average, institutions are now spending between $429 and $623 per enrolled student, per year, on marketing. But, is all that spending really working? How would we know?

Wait, wait, wait. I’m not here to tell you to throw your marketing budgets out the window. However, what if there was a smattering of evidence strewn across the web that suggested flashy billboards and airport ads weren’t the answer?

Here’s an example from some academic research. Back in 2010, researchers Maha Mourad, Christine Ennew, and Wael Kortam (Yes, it was in Egypt, and it was 12 years ago. Stay with me) designed a clever study to measure brand equity for higher education institutions in Cairo. Why is branding in higher education so important, you might ask? According to the authors, the more complex the product is (and in this case, it’s a complicated service), the more risk a purchaser takes on. Brands act as risk relievers, giving purchasers confidence in their decisions. Brands act as promises about the qualities of the service that they will receive so that purchasers don’t need to rely on previous experiences.

Back to the study, the researchers tested their equity model against multiple institutions with prospective and current students. They discovered factors such as market position (we’re looking at you, rankings) and marketing activities had surprisingly no effect on how a brand is valued. But, several variables did_,_ in fact, affect the prospective and current students’ assessments of the value of an institution’s brand:

  • Social image, or the extent to which an institution is viewed positively.
  • Personality, or the positive attributes associated with the institution, such as honesty, caring, or innovative.
  • Value for the price paid.
  • High-quality benefits like enhanced employment opportunities.
  • Quality of the relationship (in the form of trust).
  • Quality of the staff.
  • Tradition and history of the institution.

So, if Mourad, Ennew, and Kortam had any effect on the destiny of higher education marketing and branding, they would encourage all professionals to focus their efforts on building social image and quality service rather than expanding promotional campaigns. Seems like a wise investment to me.

Reference: Mourad, M., Ennew, C., & Kortam, W. (2011). Brand equity in higher education. Marketing Intelligence & Planning.

Kristin Van Dorn

Are you there, Meta? It’s ALL Social Media Managers

I’m not sure how it happened, but I do know for certain that it did happen. In April of 2022, I successfully contacted someone at Meta Concierge. I’m talking about an actual human being that interacted with me about an issue I was having with an Ads account. After what felt like hours, days, or weeks of combing through Meta for Business Support pages, I stumbled upon a live chat option.

Much to my surprise, it worked! They actually resolved my issue.

So like any grateful Social Media Manager, I was ready to share my win with anyone in need. But when that time came, I couldn’t.

This past week I came across a Twitter thread from Marketer Ameet Khabra, who was experiencing a similar Meta Ads-related issue. I thought to myself, “I know this one,” and began to seek out the chat link, BUT I COULDN’T FIND IT! It wasn’t where it was before. It was maddening. If not for my emails that prove I once spoke with Meta, I might’ve wondered if I’d imagined the whole exchange.

[SIDE NOTE: If anyone reading this has a contact at Meta that could help Ameet, please reach out to her on Twitter.]

It shouldn’t be this difficult to find help. Why is it that Social Media Managers, who understand these platforms better than anyone and often work on teams of one, are the ones most frequently left in the dark without options?

Admittedly it’s hard to imagine things getting better, but maybe there’s hope on the horizon. According to Bloomberg, Meta is “building a customer service group to field content complaints.” As folks used to say in 2017, “big, if true.”

So what does this mean for Higher Ed Marketers?

  1. (Maybe) help is on the way. News like this has been a long-time coming. Having an actual, direct link to ANY human-based assistance would be incredible and help many Social Media Managers sleep at night.
  2. Online Communities will likely continue to be the most reliable place for actionable advice. One of the few benefits of experiencing social media woes is that someone has probably gone through it already. Groups like HigherEdSocial exist to provide support, resources, and, too often, a place to commiserate.

For now, I’m firmly on team “I’ll believe it when I see it,” but for the sake of all our collective sanity, I hope it works out. Facebook has undoubtedly proven that it can evolve, but as we’ve seen with Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar, it’s not always for the better.

Carl Gratiot