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Title: An empirical study of the effect of brand personality and consistency between marketing channels on performance within the UK higher education sector
Author: Rutter, Richard
ISNI:       0000 0004 2748 4527
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2013
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available