An empirical study of the effect of brand personality and consistency between marketing channels on performance within the UK higher education sector

Rutter, Richard (2013) An empirical study of the effect of brand personality and consistency between marketing channels on performance within the UK higher education sector. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Over the past decade, increased pressure on Higher Education Institutions (“HEIs”) has
contributed to additional national and international competition for students and funding. This
has been compounded by policy decisions on the part of government. Such increasing
competition has led to an increase in managerialism, with tools and practices traditionally
associated with the corporate sector now being adopted and utilised by HEIs. Marketing and
brand management has received special attention from such institutions, particularly in order
to attract students and build reputation. Some authors argue that the concept of branding
transfers directly to the education sector, whilst others argue that HEIs are more complex with
more specialist approaches required. Research suggests UK universities do not consistently
communicate across all audiences, whilst previous literature recognises brand consistency as
important. However, this literature is based predominantly on anecdote, or on evidence from
single cases.
In this study, sixty HEIs were selected to represent the full range of UK universities. For each
HEI, a prospectus was obtained, and the websites and Twitter feeds of the institutions were
downloaded. This provided 18,956,366 words to analyse. Brand personality was measured
using Aaker’s brand personality scale and Opoku’s dictionary of synonyms. The frequency of
words was used to assess brand personality across Aaker’s five dimensions for each marketing
channel. The data was then analysed to test the research hypotheses, using statistical analysis
techniques. These looked for relationships between brand personality, strength, consistency,
and performance.
Results highlighted a positive correlation between brand personality consistency relating to the
prospectus and website, and HEI research and recruitment performance. Those HEIs with a
consistent brand personality between these two marketing channels performed better on RAE,
UCAS Demand and points. This agrees with the existing literature, which suggests that brands
represent crucial aspects of success in mature markets, and that consistency can be a key driver
in creating strong brands. This research shows that these findings extend into the HE context.
Our findings provide empirical support to anecdotal literature which has stated that brands are
important differential tools within higher education, and that an online brand’s synonymity and
consistency with its offline brand is crucial to performance. Social media participation and
validation was also positively related to RAE and UCAS Points performance on all measures
of Twitter and Facebook. Lastly, brand personality strength communicated via the prospectus
was significantly and positively related to performance in the dimension of Sophistication, but
was significantly and negatively related to performance upon the dimensions of Competence,
Excitement, Ruggedness and Sincerity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > Norwich Business School
Depositing User: Zoe White
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2013 13:37
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2013 13:37


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