5 Higher Education Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016

Psst: As esteemed 1980s philosopher Ferris Bueller noted, life moves pretty fast. So do marketing trends. That’s why we created a brand new version of this post for 2017. Check it out.

Higher education marketing trends come and go as time passes, but it’s always best to look ahead. If you can anticipate the upcoming trend shifts, you can capitalize on them before other schools catch up. In 2016, expect these five higher education marketing trends to flourish.

1. Schools Will Engage With Students on Social Media

Students using smartphone

Schools will see out students where they already congregate: social media

Social media use continues to grow among high school and college students. Schools that want to engage with potential students on a personal level will escalate their marketing efforts in the social space. They’ll expand their presence on social platforms and dedicate more resources to this type of marketing.

However, they’ll also have to be discerning about how they concentrate their efforts. For instance, a Niche survey revealed that 87 percent of high school students used Facebook in 2014, but more than 90 percent don’t bother with LinkedIn and over 40 percent don’t access Twitter.

White Paper: Inbound Marketing for Higher Education

2. Schools Will Partner With Big Brands

Bernard Bull of Etale predicts that higher education marketing trends will shift in 2016 to include industry partnerships. They’ll collaborate with popular brands to increase their appeal to prospective students and to give those brands boosts in public perception.

An industry partnership offers numerous advantages, but it can also create potential obstacles. It’s important for institutes of higher learning to partner with brands that reflect their own beliefs, cultures, and goals. Otherwise, the school risks tainting its reputation or sending the wrong message to students and parents.

3. Schools Will Tell Compelling, Emotive Stories


Stories that feature students and their struggles (and triumphs) will dominate higher education marketing efforts in 2016.

Stories that feature students and their struggles (and triumphs) will dominate higher education marketing efforts in 2016.

An increasing number of schools are realizing that potential students don’t resonate with red tape or bureaucracy. They want to engage on a personal level and hear stories that motivate them to act. Storytelling has become an important marketing technique across all industries, but it’s particularly relevant to higher education.

Telling stories about professors, administrators, alumni, and current students humanizes an institution. It helps the school gain clout by showing how past students have excelled in their post-graduate endeavors, and it brings out emotions.

Website designs and marketing materials will lend themselves to storytelling modules. Prospective students will be able to access compelling stories directly from schools’ websites.

Guide: How to Use Blogging to Attract New Students

4. Schools Will Create and Improve Their Own Apps

Apps are one of the hottest marketing tools available to schools right now. In 2016, an increasing number of schools will create their own apps to entice prospective students. From educational apps to apps designed purely for fun, this higher education marketing trend has the power to lure in students and to create a unique selling proposition.

5. Schools Will Employ More Mixed Media

Many schools have already embraced video, photography, and other types of media for marketing purposes, but expect this trend to expand in 2016. Schools will use interactive animation, cinemagraphs, infographics, and other forms of mixed media to engage young consumers.

Webinar: Donor Engagement and Digital Stewardship

While higher education marketing trends come and go, it’s important to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves. To gain insight into university marketing best practices, contact us to discuss your marketing needs.

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