AMA 2016: It's All About Brand (unless you know where to look)

A few of the Waybetter crew at AMA 2015.

We're huge fans of the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education. 

And we're very excited to be presenting there next week with one of our clients and sponsoring the conference for the fifth year running (speaking of, we hope you can come to the networking reception we're hosting on Monday 12/5 from 5–7 p.m.). 

While we love AMA because of all the fresh perspectives we get to hear, and while we relish the opportunity to connect with our current clients (and hopefully meet some new ones), our favorite thing, by far, is when somebody sees us present or wanders up to our booth and with a sort of dazed look says, "You guys do actual enrollment marketing?" and then is pleasantly surprised to learn that yes, indeed, we do. 

This isn't a knock on the conference or any of its wonderful presenters or exhibitors, but the data does bear out that this particular conference leans more toward the branding/social-media/creative side of marketing than it does the nuts-and-bolts/butts-in-seats marketing that's Waybetter's bread and butter. In fact, here's a quick word cloud visualization of this year's conference program (with a few words pulled out, like names of conference rooms or words that appear mostly in job to enlarge).

By my (admittedly very quick) count, "brand" garnered 76 mentions and "social" comes up 39 times, but “enrollment" and “admission” combined get just 20 hits.

So if you find yourself hoping to mix in some actual enrollment marketing talk along with the more heady brand stuff, we'd encourage you to swing by our session on Monday at 11:15 a.m. It's called "Confessions of an Ex Agency Pitchman," and it'll be led by John Thompson, VP for Marketing at Albion College. He's got a pretty unique take on all things higher ed after leaving the creative/branding world to spearhead an integrated marketing effort at a tuition-dependent institution. 

John will be presenting with Mandy Dubiel, Albion's Director of Admission. Together, they have a great story about how they bridged the divide between their offices, operationalized a stagnant brand, and boosted first-year enrollment by 28% using personal, relevant campaigns.

We think there's a lot in John and Mandy's story for everyone—from brand gurus who want to know how to increase ROI to admissions folks who find themselves scratching their heads about how to harness the power of the marketing office to produce real, tangible results.

If you can't hit the session, then swing by our booth just to say hello—or, you know, to grab a free phone charger (we've got plenty to go around).

Joel Anderson is Waybetter's VP of Marketing & Strategy. Higher ed. is all he knows.