If Smith College Executive Education were a car, which one of the following car brand descriptions do you think most closely resembles Smith College in personality? This is one of the questions that we posed in a customer survey that was conducted almost a year ago. The survey was part of a series of branding exercises that we went through to help us hone our messaging for a fresh, up-to-date and dynamic website.
The branding survey designed by an outside consultant was aimed at collecting information about our customers’ perceptions of our brand. We asked our two customer groups, namely corporate influencers/decision-makers and past program participants, to answer a series of questions about their experiences engaging with us. The insights we gained were both humbling and enlightening.
The survey revealed that our overall brand strength around women’s leadership is strong and compelling. When asked what they would tell their CEOs about our programs, respondents answered that Smith’s Executive Education is “targeted to women in leadership”, and focused on “creating women leaders” and on the “unique strengths and perspectives of women and the challenges they face in the industry”. Our customers recognize our niche position as a leading expert in executive women’s leadership development.
We also discovered that the perceptions about our brand were stronger among participants than influencers. That made total sense to us since the women who attend our programs have the first-hand experience that our corporate influencers don’t have. Nevertheless, this gap in perception made us aware of the need for better communication in that area. Both groups, however, were on par in expressing how they felt when they interacted with us. Participants named the top six emotional benefits of our brand as feeling “inspired, empowered, energized, respected, confident and connected”. Influencers’ top six were feeling “empowered, connected, inspired, energized, part of a family and excited.”
And finally, going back to the question about comparing Smith College Executive Education to a car – what did folks say? The top choice was BMW (conservative luxury and high performance), the second in line was Mercedes (premium and high social status) and third place went to Mini Cooper (innovative specialist and stands out from crowd). No complaints there!