It is our mission to help make sense of the world of higher education branding. Brand, after all, is a complex and abstract thing. If you want to learn how to shape it in order to meet your business goals, you’re going to need to make it much more concrete. 

Fortunately, the academic community has put a huge amount of resources into understanding and measuring brands in the real world. The world of higher education has naturally been the target of much of this research. One of the most influential and practical approaches to measuring higher education brands is the University Brand Personality Scale (UBPS). This week, we’re going in-depth on this useful tool and providing you with some tips on how to wield it effectively. 

Introducing the University Brand Personality Scale

Developed by Rauchsnabel, Krey, Babin and Ivens in 2016, the UBPS is a framework for measuring the personality characteristics of higher education brands. It uses six personality dimensions to represent the facets of your brand identity that are most pertinent to your audience. The six key dimensions outlined in the study include:

–  Prestige

– Sincerity

– Appeal

– Liveliness

– Conscientiousness

– Cosmopolitan

What’s interesting is that the original study correlates these brand facets strongly with brand loyalty, meaning there’s a good chance they help to define students’ relationships to university brands in the real world. They make a useful tool to help build a data-driven picture of your own brand and those of your competitors.

How to use the UBPS

Given that the UBPS is a theoretical framework, it can be applied to your marketing efforts in any way that’s useful to you. A simple way to do it is by using a 7-point Likert scale to quantify your understanding of both your own and competitor brands. It can help you to form a quick ‘brand hypothesis’ before setting about gathering more data. First, score your target brand against each of the six personality elements. Then test your assumptions by bringing the same question to students, academics, partners or members of the public – whichever audience is most relevant to your campaign. 

By averaging the results, you can get a clear picture of how a university brand is resonating with your audience. You can also subdivide these results, allowing you to see how demographic information may alter brand perceptions. This helps you to understand whether you’re conceptualising the brand in the right way.  Sometimes, you might be surprised at your findings.

At this stage, it’s also useful to measure the correlation between responses to test the extent to which audiences agree on brand dimensions. Where correlation is weak, you get a clue to problems in your communications strategy, like a lack of brand coherence or vastly different brand experiences. 

At the very least, the UBPS analysis gives you a basis to delve a little bit deeper into understanding how a university is perceived. It might spark some one-to-one conversations with respondents or prompt us to take another look at initial assumptions about a brand. 

It’s also a fantastic tool to use internally, allowing you to test the extent to which your team agrees on your university brand personality. It’s also great for modelling your ideal brand or analysing outgoing brand communications. 

However you decide to use it, UBPS should be a key tool in your toolkit, ready to help you build a cohesive brand impression you can leverage for better market results. Make sure you read the original paper here.