Own Who You Are: A Recap of Up&Up’s 2023 AMA Presentation

December 29, 2023

 Own Who You Are: A Recap of Up&Up’s 2023 AMA Presentation

tag AMA 2023 | Branding
 Own Who You Are: A Recap of Up&Up’s 2023 AMA Presentation

Have you ever wondered what it truly means to “own who you are?” At this year’s AMA Symposium for Higher Education, Up&Up’s dynamic duo, Allison Lanier and Elliot Lollis, dove into this intriguing topic during a captivating 15-minute presentation. 

If you weren’t able to attend, fear not! We’ve prepared a recap to guide you in uncovering your institution’s secret sauce, forging a deep connection with your audience, and summoning the courage to gracefully part ways with those who aren’t the right fit.

Your Starting Point

In a vast sea of sameness, it’s absolutely crucial for higher education institutions to stand apart and above. One potent method to achieve this is by genuinely owning your identity. 

But how do you decipher who you are and what exactly you’re owning? We’ve pinpointed three critical areas to focus on when examining your institution’s marketing and branding, ensuring an authentic understanding of yourself and a powerful resonance with your audience.

Unlocking Your Secret Sauce 

Take a moment to reflect on the elements that make your institution truly unique. Your campus, faculty, student-to-faculty ratio, and location likely come to mind. 

Now, picture yourself in a room with your peers. You’re all  asked the same question: “What makes your institution unique?” How many others do you think can claim the same features that you did? Probably all of them! 

In the realm of prospective students and their families, making a life-altering decision becomes daunting when every school appears to say the same thing.

Just like onions, your institution has layers. You must dig deep and ask more questions to uncover what genuinely sets you apart. 

For instance, when asked, “What makes our university unique?” you might respond with, “Our campus.” Dive deeper, asking, “What about our campus is unique?” You might discover that being located on the beach is not just a picturesque backdrop, but a unique opportunity for students pursuing Marine Biology. 

To identify your secret sauce, peel back the layers one question at a time, investing time, considering multiple perspectives, and refusing to settle for surface-level answers.

The Power of “Why”

Digging deeper is facilitated by what we fondly call “The Toddler Method.” Constantly asking “why” becomes a powerful tool for understanding what lies beneath the surface. 

This technique encourages questioning the importance of something and why people should care. Your “why” will always point back to the core of your institution, extracting the essence created by your unique qualities.

Understanding Your Audience 

Amidst the myriad responsibilities on your to-do list, you might be wondering how to incorporate these strategies. We understand the challenges of wearing multiple hats while leading diverse age groups. 

However, taking the time to intimately understand your target audience is crucial. Dr. Marcus Collins, keynote speaker of AMA 2023, wisely remarked, “We often mistake information for intimacy.” 

No, we don’t mean intimacy in the sense of close relationships. But we do mean that you have to understand what your students actually care about. 

We often make the mistake of telling our audiences what they should care about without actually asking them. When was the last time you walked campus and spoke to a student? Like, really talked with them? 

We dare you to grab coffee with a student and get to know them on a deeper level. What makes them tick? Why did they choose your university over all the others? What has their experience been like? 

The key takeaway: Understand the importance of learning from your audience before attempting to influence their decision-making.

The Courage to Define Your Path

Liquid Death is a prime example of a successful brand that embodies owning its identity, redefining the beverage scene with water alternatives for socializing without alcohol. 

How does a brand sell a can of water for $5 when there are cheaper options? It identifies a clear target audience, understands their desires, and creates a product that resonates directly with them. 

Liquid Death unapologetically turns away from catering to everyone, steadfast in its convictions. The brand’s cheeky image is designed to resonate with millennials and Gen Z, demographics that value humor, authenticity, and brands with a playful attitude. This specific audience, typically resistant to traditional advertising, was immediately captivated by Liquid Death’s unconventional approach. 

The brand’s triumph underscores a modern consumer reality where purchases go beyond mere products; individuals invest in a brand’s narrative, values, and identity. Consider the impact if your institution could similarly define its audience clearly, possessing the courage to disengage from those who don’t align with its vision. 

Take the Challenge 

We challenge you to cultivate a truly unique brand that attracts the right-fit students by reframing “the norm.” 

Dive deep, ask “why,” intimately know your audience, have the courage to walk away, and step into new territory. Our assumption is that not only will you boost enrollment, but you’ll also witness positive impacts on retention and overall student well-being. 

By choosing to own who you are, you’ll reap the benefits of a distinct identity.

Your homework: 

  • Discover 5 new facts about your school’s history.
  • Compile a list of skills your students acquire.
  • Engage in meaningful, one-on-one conversations with 20 students.
  • Identify a weakness and reframe it positively.
  • Create an interactive method for gathering student feedback beyond emails and surveys.

What do you think it means to own who you are? We would love to hear from you!