Month: June 2021

by sduncan sduncan No Comments

Marketing Principles Behind the Higher Ed Marketing Periodic Table and Marketing Mix Maps

The Higher Education Marketing Periodic Table is based on a wide range of marketing principles, theory and models. It incorporates these elements into its approach, structure, and marketing mix map applications.

Here is a summary of each of these elements and a short description of how each contributes to the Periodic Table:

1. The 7Ps of the Marketing Mix

The 4Ps model of the Marketing Mix, (Product, Promotion, Price, Packaging) was first developed by Professor Jerome McCarthy in 1960, as a tool to organize and plan marketing activities. It was then expanded upon by Coombs & Smith in 1981, to the seven Ps, (adding Process, People, Physical Evidence), to better incorporate the realities of services marketing. Many more recent authors have argued that the 7Ps is no longer a relevant model in the new world of digital marketing. I don’t agree and would argue it is a particularly effective model with which to examine higher education marketing. The 7Ps form the most important organizing principle of the Higher Education Marketing Periodic Table.

There’s a lot of great reference material out there that describes the workings of the 7 Ps so I won’t go into them in detail here.  I will say that I generally follow the model and have worked back into it some elements of the 4 C’s models to modernize their scope a bit. A notable change is “Physical Evidence” which I have loosely redefined as simply “Evidence”, in recognition of the importance of digital or virtual evidence.

2. The Whole Product Concept

Levitt and then Mckenna’s work on the Whole Product Concept provides a really useful way to look at higher education “product”. First, let’s dispense with the “product “vs “service” argument. “Traditional” higher ed offerings are best described as a service, rather than a product. More recently though, higher ed has been on a mission to break its offerings down into smaller and smaller units, like learning modules and micro-credentials. As new, tech-based market entrants and business models disrupt the traditional higher ed market, learning products have become quite common rather than services. The whole product concept breaks down “product” into three dimensions including core product, actual product, and augmented product. Here is an example, applied to higher ed.

Most importantly as a marketer, you must understand your own product’s/service’s main value propositions and the dimension of the model into which they best fit. For example, a short technical training certificate can be described as having predominantly “actual” product characteristics.  Contrast that with the importance of augmented product characteristics of “the student experience” of an Ivy League university degree. This approach helps to identify a broad range of often, very different dimensions of your value proposition and to then prioritize and emphasize them across your marketing mix. Understanding these dimensions will help you discern and focus your value propositions and o better communicate them to your target audience.

3. The PESO Model

The PESO Model, of promotional mix elements, (Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned), organizes the Promotion section of the Periodic Table quite nicely. I’ve also rounded out this section with a “Traditional” mix section and included “Event” marketing. Social media is organized a bit differently in the periodic table from what you will normally see elsewhere. I have used this approach to prioritize social channels that are most common and relevant in higher ed marketing. This approach may be contentious but is useful when setting mix priorities.

Source: SpinSucks

4. Kotler’s Marketing 4.0 model.

So now we are starting to get into the “influenced by” section, rather than “based on”. Kotler’s Marketing 4.0 Model really does capture the challenge we face in higher ed, navigating the marketing landscape from traditional-oriented strategy and tactics to more digitally, connected, social marketing. I think this is highly relevant because of the complex and expansive nature of the higher ed landscape, in which we are often caught between the traditional and the digital worlds.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s lots of hardcore digital marketing going on out there. Much “traditional” marketing, (and rightly so, as it still works well), is firmly entrenched in the strategy and tactics of colleges and universities. I feel the “connected “marketing mix approach he offers describes many of the newer, more “disruptive” oriented institution’s approaches. Engagement and advocacy are well-recognized metrics of success in today’s competitive digital marketplace, regardless of where your institution fits on this spectrum.

Source: The Marketing Journal

5. Positioning Framework

Although more of a framework than a model,  I would also add April Dunford’s approach to positioning as a strong influence on how I have imagined the Positioning section in Promotion (# 77-82 in the Periodic Table). In her recent book on positioning, “Obviously Awesome”, she presents an approach to position yourself, that I really like and have used to organize this section. If you are currently working on rebranding or positioning for your college or university, it would be well worth the read to help you focus and enhance your process.

6. Marketing Mix Maps

My concept for visual mix mapping is a work in progress, but I feel it becomes clearer and more refined in each update I release. Three components, including, a) the passive mix b) the active mix, and c) strategy anchors create a mix map in the higher education marketing periodic table.

Passive and active mix are not new marketing concepts themselves, but mapping them together visually, (with a strategy anchor), is and provides a new approach to building or analyzing your own marketing mix ( or to examine a competitor’s). I added the concept of strategy anchors as an extension of the active/passive mix to help focus a mix map user’s strategy and tactics. I see strategy anchors as central cinch pins in the broader marketing strategy and highlight them as such. Go here for a fuller description of Marketing Mix Maps.

So that’s my review of the marketing principles, theory, and models behind the Higher Education Marketing Periodic Table and Marketing Mix Maps. By describing these underpinning elements, I hope that the reader gains a fuller understanding of the design and approach of the periodic table model. This should also help you when constructing or analyzing your higher ed marketing mix.

Your feedback on the periodic table and mix maps is greatly appreciated. Most particularly, I would appreciate hearing your challenges and/or criticisms of these ideas to help me pressure test the approach and to further develop the model.

I look forward to hearing from you.



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