Maybe They Should Rename It Burger King University?
September 8, 2009, 5:08 pm
Filed under: branding, marketing, Media | Tags: ,

Phoenix logoWhich of these brands spends the most on advertising?

a.  Revlon
b.  FedEx
c.  Cheerios
d.  The University of Phoenix

The unexpected (and correct) answer is the University of Phoenix.  The online institution spent an estimated $134 million on measured media in 2008.  It’s on track to spend even more in 2009, buying $75 million in ads in the first half of the year.

For its money, the University of Phoenix has generated significant brand awareness, but it hasn’t built much of a brand.  Its ad spending has helped the school attract a record number of students, generate $3.1 billion in 2008 revenue and cultivate a reputation for quality similar to Burger King‘s and the Russian ruble’s.  The University of Phoenix brand is probably associated with convenience, accessibility and maybe low cost.  These are not the attributes of an enduring brand.  Even Burger King — also convenient, accessible and cheap — offers other attractions, such as made-to-order service (“You can have it your way!”) and, of course, onion rings.

The University of Phoenix, on the other hand, offers an intangible “product” that’s harder to measure.  Because of this, it’ll have to work doubly hard to imbue its brand with attributes such as legitimacy and achievement.  Such attributes are essential to the long-term growth of the franchise and to countering skepticism about the value of a University of Phoenix degree.

If nothing else, the online institution should try to create some pride of association.  The school may not be exclusive or rigorous, but it is extremely large.  To build esprit de corps, perhaps the University of Phoenix’s 420,000 virtual students could pick a fight with the neighboring city of Scottsdale (population 240,000) and Arizona State University (53,000 students).  Or, to highlight the school’s international presence, maybe Phoenix’s students could lay siege to Halifax, Nova Scotia (population 373,000)?

I’d love to see what a giant student body backed by an even larger ad budget could really accomplish.  With such resources, Phoenix should at least be able to shape a brand that’s differentiated from Burger King’s.

2 Comments so far
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This is the institution I went to originally when I thought of getting my Master’s degree in Education. They will have to continue to work much harder on branding because there is not much quality there.

Comment by karen

Check out virtual stats of these places/institutions. Like #of twitter followers, facebook fans or even how often and where people search for a given brand name….

Searches for University of Phoenix are certainly beginning to outstrip searches for University of Texas. Why?

Comment by Piotr

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