It’s the age-old question with no provable answer. Now, what if I change this question to something more marketing related. What comes first, the overall company strategy or the marketing (brand image change) strategy? At first glance, this question seems simple right. It has to be the overall company strategy right? Maybe.
I was speaking to a colleague recently who is at a crossroads with his college. The short version of the story is that the teaching college he works for has an identity and purpose crisis. His college is the higher education of “last resort” because it is a state school and there is no community college in the area. As such, they take on some students that, let’s face it, really aren’t ready for college. And, they would like to change that. They would like to be a “choosier” college and make students essentially earn their place at the college.
So, here’s the question. Their college purpose (and potential loss of some state funding) aside, can they implement their change to their overall strategy first or do they have to change their brand image first so that their overall strategy can work? That is a tough question. Here’s another thought…can they do both at the same time? There is no concrete answer to this one. If you change the strategy first and then the subsequent brand image change marketing campaigns to the “desirable” students isn’t successful and enrollment falls, the college could be in financial trouble. If the college decides to change the brand image first and implement the change to the overall strategy second, they could lose the state funding faster than they can replace it with tuition from new enrollees. Thus, to me this is the chicken or the egg scenario.
When my colleague finished telling me his tale of woe, the only wisdom I could come up with was “wow, that sucks.” He didn’t corner me for a response on how I would handle this situation, but in the end, I believe he has to change the brand image first and slowly ramp up the elimination of the undesirables (and keep his fingers crossed with respect to state funding and public opinion).