In another case of Madison Avenue meeting the ivory tower, Simmons College of Boston is using a new marketing campaign to boldly define itself as a brand name and a niche market.
Simmons is only the latest school to join this trend. The University of Massachusetts and the University of Notre Dame are among schools that have recently aired TV ads.While Simmons still mulls over the merits of TV ads, it has hired Cipriani Kremer Design, a division of Arnold Communications, New England's largest ad agency, to assist it with a repositioning strategy as Simmons prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 1999.
Among the first fruits of this effort are a "freshened up" logo, a new school color and a dramatically revised "viewbook," a brochure the college sends to high school students in hopes of persuading them to apply to Simmons.
Once brochures and school marketing were an amateur affair, the domain of zealous alumni, and viewbooks tended to look alike - the obligatory photo of the school's oldest building and loads of mug shots of tweedy and chalk-dusted pedagogues.
But with tuition soaring and the number of 18-year-olds sometimes shrinking, competition among colleges for new students has become fierce, says Caroline Considine, a former marketing professor who helps manage the school's marketing program.
As a result, more colleges are turning to professionals to differentiate themselves from rivals and develop everything from ad slogans to brochures that look like trendy magazines.
Some of the marketing efforts have met with initial success.
For example, Marquette University reported that freshman enrollment was up 10 percent last September following several initiatives including an ad campaign.
Don't look for Ivy League schools to lead this trend. They don't need ad campaigns to encourage hopefuls to apply.
In lean years, when the pool of 18-year-olds is small, top schools keep their freshman classes full by dipping deeper into the pool of applicants. One result is that they may steal customers away from schools with less glossy reputations.
That may explain why schools such as the University of Cincinnati or the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga are among the most aggressive of academic marketers as they seek to defend their turfs from poachers with more prestige.
One aim of the Simmons marketing campaign is to boost undergraduate applications; another is to ensure that the entire Simmons family - the undergraduate school as well as its graduate programs - all speak with one voice, Considine says.
And so Simmons has turned to Cipriani Kremer, which has done strategic design work for such clients as Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. as well as Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
In marketing itself to high school seniors, Simmons thinks it has rare advantages that set it apart: It is one of the few all-women's schools that is located in a big city, and it puts equal weight on professional career training and liberal arts.