Managing Marketing: The transformation of Higher Education marketing

Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Chief Marketing Officer, John Chatterton talks with Darren about the challenges facing marketers, particularly in the Higher Education category, which is undergoing significant transformation due to the changing expectations of students and industry. He shares some of the opportunities for marketers in the category to help manage this transformation leveraging strong brands with agile customer experience management.

John Chatterton on Higher Education marketing

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and today I’m joined by Chief Marketing Officer, John Chatterton, to talk about marketing and Higher Education. Welcome, John.

John:

Thank you, Darren, great to be here.

Darren:

Look, John, I’m really interested in the fact that you’ve got a terrific career and very senior roles both in product and now services marketing. But obviously a lot’s happened in the last ten years with marketing and I’m wondering what do you see as the biggest challenges now facing senior marketers like yourself?

John:

I think there’s a huge tension between the traditional way of marketing where I was trained by the global FMCG companies and digital marketing. And there’s a lot said by marketing pundits around which way we should be focused and should we even refer to digital marketers.

But I think there is also a lot forgotten, which is we’re having this debate because we haven’t actually made that change as an industry.

Those who are actually marketers day to day are struggling, genuinely struggling to evolve from the traditional approach to marketing to be fully digitally orientated and that’s why we continue to have this debate about which is more important.

Darren:

Yeah, I just noticed recently we’ve had Coca-Cola who raced out into digital marketing and content marketing and now it’s almost like they’ve pulled right back to the traditions and re-examined what they’ve been doing. The rushing into these areas without really integrating it has not paid off for them has it? Is that what you’re talking about?

The Importance of Experimentation

John:

Absolutely, because we’re all trained by the big global companies to market one way especially product marketers and then digital came along and we felt the need to experiment. Coca-Cola are a great example with their 2020 approach and they would put money aside to try things just to see if it would work.

I think a lot of marketers feel that way. We see a new bit of technology come along, a new approach and we think well we need to give that a go. But we don’t really know whether it fits our strategy or not. We don’t know if it’s going to work and so people are experimenting.

I think now increasingly, having had time to experiment, people are coming back and saying well those experiments aren’t really delivering.

You see Mark Ritson challenging content marketing in its entirety as to whether it’s relevant. That’s probably a bit extreme. But it’s a good example of where people are questioning what they’ve actually been experimenting with.

Darren:

Yeah, I’m a big fan of experimentation; I have a science background. But I think it can be a slippery slope can’t it because you can start saying, ‘well I’m going to experiment here’? But unless you bring a rigour or framework to that experimentation it can quickly become a shopping basket of all the things I should do.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are the new things and suddenly you’re doing that and you’re still doing your experiment on social media and how are the Snapchat filters going, you know? How do you, from a CMO perspective, give some rigour or structure to that experimentation?

John:

Well I think that is exactly the challenge. That is on a day to day basis you have a marketing team and obviously a CMO leading it, who are trying to achieve a certain objective and I think the key bit to remember, as a CMO, you really have to have a strong strategy.

You halve to know what good looks like, what success looks like, what those metrics look like, those few important KPIs so that you can cascade that down into, for example, digital.

I think the key for me is very much about making sure that you stay focussed on having a clear understanding of who is your audience, how do you segment them, are you targeting the right people, do you have a clear strategy about what your audience is currently thinking and what you want them to think, and what you want them to do?

You have to have all of that well before you get into your tech stack, start talking about technologies or start talking about influencer campaigns. If you have all that right then hopefully you can cascade your strategy, your directives, your few KPIs for your marketing strategy through to ‘well what does that mean for an influencer strategy on social media?’

Darren:

It’s so easy isn’t it to be distracted by implementation and overlook the important role that strategy has in the first place? Because it’s really strategy that informs implementation and yet, from my perspective, I see a lot of marketers are so caught up in managing all of the different moving parts of implementation it’s almost like strategy’s been forgotten.

John:

Well there’s so much to do you can get so busy. And you’re absolutely right. I mean the top three social posts for universities in Australia this year were sunset photos of their campuses. They were the most engaging posts by far.

Is that on strategy? Is that something that university teams should be spending time doing? I think you have to question these things and say, ‘well we have a strategy, are we working hard to achieve it or have we been seduced by new opportunities and is that what we’re spending our time doing?’

I think we need to be very careful about staying anchored in the strategy and the KPIs and the segmentation that the target team were going with and then at the very last point looking at the channels we use to communicate with our audiences and at that point, ‘well, which is better for us?’ And yes a bit of experimentation is good so long as you evaluate it.

Darren:

Yeah, that’s right.

John:

How many people experiment and don’t evaluate it and then did that influencer campaign go well? I don’t know.

Measurement and Budget Management

Darren:

Yeah, or the other one you get, especially specialist supply, these rosters that we see with 100s and 100s of specialist agencies and if you actually bother to trace back it’s like, ‘oh we thought we’d do an experiment in Snapchat filters so we got someone in that knew about it.

Suddenly we spent more and more and suddenly that $10,000 is now $100,000 is now half a million dollars on Snapchat or social media and we’re not really sure what it’s contributing to delivering our objectives. Now that’s completely losing sight of the strategy.

John:

Absolutely. I mean in the good old days of traditional media it was just reach and frequency and we’d talk about a bit of continuity and that would be the focus of the conversation. Now it’s at a point where we could be running an open day university and we’ve got the website, we’ve got digital advertising, we’ve got buses, we’ve got Snapchat filters—everything costs money and the amount of money isn’t going up.

And to us neither should it. I mean marketing budget has always been how long is a piece of string? Marketers, good marketers should be able to demonstrate that more money leads to more return. If you can’t even manage and measure what you’re doing how on earth can you demonstrate that more money would give a bigger return?

So, it’s important to keep things simple, controlled, focused on the strategy and take the time at the end of it to do the evaluation, report back what worked so that next time you can optimise and enhance.

Darren:

So you’re almost training through these consumer goods companies. The classical consumer goods companies were all about strategy, segmentation, engagement, and the objective was always to increase margin or maintain margin and market share wasn’t it?

John:

Yeah, absolutely. So it was about product sales to some degree and also, obviously, developing the brand. So reach and engagement were key around the brand, and attributes—people quite often forget that now. You look at social media, it’s all about well what reach have you got, how many engagements have you got? Is anybody really tracking what people think about what they’re seeing?

It quite often gets forgotten; the same about the website. We’ll track NPS, we’ll track whether people manage to complete the task we’re looking for. We’ll track whether it’s quick and easy. Will we track what they thought about the experience they had? Nah, too many questions so we haven’t got time for that.

So the basics I think are slipping as everyone focuses on the new shiny digital opportunities and marketers? There aren’t that many more of us now. There’s really no more money for a lot of organisations—that’s been flat. So all these new things that we have to do come at the opportunity cost of having less time to spend on strategy, less time to spend on evaluation and it’s becoming a real time crunch for marketers now.

Darren:

Do you think it’s also because of the shortening of the CMO tenure? I think it’s down to 22 months I read recently. Do you think it’s because there is this real emphasis on activity almost, being busy and doing lots of things over results, because really in 22 months it would be very hard to show a significant increase unless you have some magic pudding wouldn’t it?

John:

Even with the best agile marketing approaches in the world where we can get stuff done really quickly, and let’s be honest how many organisations are doing a really good job of delivering that in a quality way?

But even with that it takes time to do things if you’re really going to set off and develop a clear strategy that’s informed by great consumer or customer insights and that may require research which makes that stage even longer. Then make the change, then do the activity, then track it back. How many cycles of that are you going to get done within 22 months?

The opportunity to really deliver quite often takes longer especially if you need to change team structures, recruit new people, develop new skills in the team, put in new processes. 22 months is a phenomenally short amount of time to really start something and see it through to the end, and really know whether its worked or not and have the chance to optimise it and learn from your first round of activity.

Darren:

Yeah, so being out there and doing lots of things perhaps is a good cover for the fact that you’re not really going to have that much time to actually deliver real results against a set of objectives or KPIs.

John:

I think, unfortunately, business in Australia at a leadership level is very much people protecting their position. You know how many people get in and after a year, ‘we’ll do a restructure’. Are they doing it because there needs to be a restructure or are they doing it because it buys time?

Same with changing agencies. That was always the old way of doing it. We’ll blame the agency. We’ll get a new agency. Now we need to give them time. And it gives the marketing leader time. So I think that there is an issue now with the tenure of marketing leaders coming down and down in that it forces them to take negative behaviours rather than actually act in the long-term best interests of the organisations they represent.

Marketers as Contracted Change Agents

Darren:

I met, in London, a senior marketer and his whole career he’s taken contracts rather than appointments and the reason he did that is, he said, he’d take a two or three-year contract that if they wanted to terminate it would cost them a large amount of money but he wanted security of having a particular period of time and it was all about his performance around delivering those numbers.

Because, he said, the worst thing that can happen to a marketer is you get so caught up in the politics of the company that you’re actually stopped from being effective as a marketer because you’ve got to be concerned about everyone’s feelings while driving the activities the brand requires to reach the objective.

What do you think about that idea of being a contractor rather than an employee of the company?

John:

I think it’s a very interesting solution to the problem. A lot of CMOs spend a lot of their time caught up being the Internal Stakeholder Manager like a Group Account Director for internal stakeholders and spend a lot of time having to balance keeping stakeholders happy with actually doing the right thing for the organisation’s brands and products and there quite often is a contrast and a conflict. And I think that’s something that needs to be carefully managed.

How often have marketers been asked by the MD to place some advertising or do some activity because someone on the Executive or the Board or a Board member’s wife even shops in that area, really likes that activity, doesn’t see any campaign, and would really like to see it themselves.

It’s very frequent. So, I think the idea of being able to remove yourself from that pressure and being able to focus on getting on and doing a great job for the organisation is a really interesting idea.

Darren:

I like the fact that the strongest word a marketer can use is ‘no’. Right? The easiest thing in the world is to say, ‘yes, yes, yes, you’ll do all that’ but in actual fact it’s much more powerful to say, ‘no, we’re not doing that’ because, in actual fact, it goes straight to what a good strategy is all about; it’s what not to do so that you can focus on being really good at the things that you have to do.

So, as you said, it’s almost separating yourself from being at the whim of not just your employer (your direct report) but the whole organisation as to whether you’re doing a good job or not.

Your good job as a marketer is actually something incredibly measurable; it is EBIT, it’s being at a premium to market, it is increasing market share—these are all very tangible business metrics. Yet so often you hear about marketers that are basically, on someone’s opinion, they’ve underperformed and yet all the numbers are actually going in their favour.

John:

I personally think that business moves in cycles and that marketing will come full circle soon and the distraction if you like from the plethora of digital opportunities will eventually come full circle back to a focus on core strategy, core KPIs and what are we actually trying to do here?

Because this level, and maybe your example at the beginning with Coke is a good demonstration, maybe we’re starting to turn that corner but we can’t continue to be seduced by doing new things.

Marketing teams can’t bring on the 50th agency with a new technology and try and integrate that with the other 49 they’ve already got because it’s something new and funky. It’s just not manageable. The number of people in a marketing team, the size of a marketing budget isn’t going up and eventually we’ll have to get back to focussing on fewer, bigger, better activities.

To do that we’ll need to have a really neat strategy to help us prioritise and I think the focus will eventually come back when people realise well digital is really exciting and can do some amazing things incredibly cost effectively. There is also a massive distraction by focusing on the digital part of marketing and forgetting the marketing part of it.

Building Brands through Customer Experience

Darren:

Absolutely. I want to change direction a little bit here and I really wanted to sit down and have this conversation because of your experience in both services marketing (more recently) and also product marketing.

My belief is that as marketing is moving towards customer experience and taking responsibility for co-ordinating the whole of customer experience there’s going to be an increasing difference between product marketing (where you’re basically taking a product to market but you don’t necessarily get to influence the whole of the customer experience because often there’s retailers and the consumer’s going to be interacting with the product way outside of your influence) whereas services marketing (where the product, the value is actually in the experience) is going to be something that potentially marketers are going to have a lot more influence over every aspect of the customer experience.

So, from your experience what are the similarities, what are the principles that you take through both, and what are the differences?

John:

So for me the key difference between product and service marketing is the management of the lifecycle. So with services marketing there is acquisition, retention, development etc. That isn’t something you tend to get in the product marketing world. Product marketing, honestly, would benefit from that approach because it does apply.

You are constantly trying to acquire new customers in product marketing, and you want to develop them be it into more products from the same brand etc. Ultimately you want to say to them if they want to try and leave to go to a cheaper alternative like something at Aldi. So the principles of services marketing very much apply to product marketing.

The other way round—I think what I find in services marketing is that it can benefit from the rigour around the segmentation, the targeting, positioning that product marketers learn particularly from the big firms. So that I think is the key thing to take in.

Ultimately, I think the customer journey is becoming more and more important, that this experience bit, product or a service is really what people remember and what becomes the cornerstone of the brand whether it is your experience with using the product or purchasing the product or not.

I think I can see that as the key trend being everyone, product or services, really focussing on managing the customer experience and understanding that bit.

Darren:

Yeah, absolutely because again you brought up the point about strategy. It’s so vitally important to have a clearly articulated strategy aligned to your business and marketing objectives before you even start at looking at your implementation.

John:

Yeah, and if you take the customer journey you’ve got to understand it, you’ve got to understand where you’ve going to put your money. Where’s the focus? Are you spending all your money on acquiring or developing or retaining? It’s important to understand that.

That’s only ever going to come from having a clear strategy and one that is informed by a really strong insight and understanding about what’s happening with your customers and their time with your products or services.

The Transformation of Higher Education

Darren:

Now most recently you’ve been working in Higher Education and that’s a category that is undergoing transformation isn’t it?

John:

Massive transformation. I think it’s been very stable and very traditional for a very long time and for a number of reasons it’s having to change now very quickly. It’s challenged by a number of key drivers for that.

We’re seeing employers becoming increasingly restless with what they see as the skills graduates are being taught at university. And a lot of discussion around whether you even need a degree now in the new digital economy and whether the skills students are being taught are relevant.

At the same time students are having to pay more and more money to subsidise the cost of their fees. So they’re becoming far more aware of that and kind of challenging themselves; should I invest that money in a university course or should I just jump straight into a graduate programme with someone?

Darren:

At the same time the marketers within Higher Education are facing the same challenges with diversification of channels and tight budgets or limited budgets and those things as well. So you’ve almost got a perfect storm in some ways in that particular category.

John:

Absolutely. Most people would assume it’s all just about recruiting students and that’s all they really need to do, do marketing teams at universities really need to do much work because everyone knows Open University and everyone knows they can go there so what’s the work for the university marketing team?

But actually there is a lot of variety of work in a university marketing team. You’ve got the B to C; you’ve also got the B to B. So, universities rely for a lot of their funding from corporate sponsorships, from internship programmes, from being able to introduce students to companies when they graduate for careers etc and work. So, there is a big B to B component and there is also a B to G component—the business to government.

So for a university the marketing strategy needs to encompass all of that. Is it going to spend its million dollars on advertising to new students, to current students to stay more, to businesses to partner and donate more, to other organisations to partner and develop its research profile?

Is it going to focus on communicating about the research it does, which steeply drives the brand reputation or indeed to attract students and make sure they are aware of what their university does in terms of its offer or indeed develop the offer?

So, it’s far more varied than a first glance might make you consider and certainly the number of people in the teams and the budgets aren’t going up so having a strong strategy is required to say well how much money are we going to spend on all the things we could do to select the few that we are actually going to do?

Darren:

One of the trends that we’ve seen, talking to a number of different tertiary intuitions is this belief that data, student data, alumni data, that data is the solution to all their marketing issues.

It concerns me because I think it’s almost trying to focus the problem and the solution around a very one dimensional view because in actual fact marketing is a much broader view. And there’s reputation, there’s brand as part of reputation management and there’s a whole lot of other things other than data alone.

John:

Look you’re absolutely right. Pretty much every university in the country right now is developing a data strategy and trying to look at how it integrates its data, all the way from the recruitment and acquisition campaigns where people might visit your websites, your social media or come to an event.

How do we develop a single view of that customer during that recruitment process? Current students- what are they doing while they are with you? There are lots of things they can do at university. Do we have an aligned view of what they’re doing socially and academically while they’re at university? Then when they become alumni how do we help them to inform us of what they did so that we can actually target alumni communications?

The logic of it makes a huge amount of sense but back to my opening remarks. It’s not that the marketing teams at universities don’t want to do that; they feel an incredible pressure. They hear about personalisation; personalisation is what has to happen. So, a university might have 40 – 50,000 current students at any one time.

How do you personalise for that when you’re speaking to maybe 300,000 in the acquisition funnel every year? You need 40,000 every year and then you’ve got an alumni of a couple of 100,000. How do you integrate all those many sources of data, which have, historically been managed by small groups within the university to create that single view of the customer?

Back to my key focus, which is even if you had that single view of that customer what would you do with it? If you don’t have a strategy and objective first, if you haven’t outlined what the segmentation is you are going to bring to this big single view of the customer, what are you going to do with it? If the two of us, Darren, go to the home page of the website what are we going to see that’s different?

Why is that going to be materially important and so much more engaging and influential on us that it’s worthwhile the effort (that can be measured in dollars) to create that difference? If we haven’t worked that out up front why are we spending years and millions of dollars aligning all that data to deliver something when we don’t even know what we’ll do with that capability when we get it?

Darren:

Yeah. Again it’s like we need to understand our customer or student base so data is the way to do it but as you say, what’s the objective? What’s the strategy that we need to implement to deliver that objective and how do we integrate this?

The university I went to, the only reason I’m on their alumni list is I actually went to the website and signed up. They had no idea that I was a student. I had to provide them all the information about who I was, when I went there and what I did because they didn’t know who I am.

John:

But even if you provided them with a very rich profile what are they really doing with it?

Darren:

Nothing. I just get all the emails every month, I get an email telling me what’s going on.

John:

Therein lies the issue because they probably don’t have either the detailed understanding, and the strategy or indeed maybe even the resources to really deliver anything close to segmented communication let alone personalised communication for you.

That really is the big issue around personalisation. Everyone’s trying to rush to deliver personalisation without realising that just a couple of steps earlier on in terms of segmentation might have a bigger impact or might be meaningful. If you’re a law student from university are you really interested in what physics students do?

No, so that level of personalisation…

Darren:

Except I’ve got a science degree and now I’m working in marketing and advertising so I guess even with all that data they’re confused about who I am.

John:

I guarantee that their strategy about what they’re looking to encourage you to do with them is also a bit muddy. So Alumni is a great opportunity, we’re going to spend a lot of money engaging our alumni but to what end?

Darren:

What’s the objective?

John:

So back to the strategy part—why do we want to engage the alumni? If it’s to donate money—most donations from alumni come from very few people as in the monetary amount. Lots of people donate a very small amount but very few people donate a big amount of money. You’d be far better just to focus on those few people.

Darren:

It’s not the U.S where you get a whole library built by the one family.

John:

Well, there have been incidences of that here in Australia.

Darren:

But it’s one in a million.

John:

Yeah, it’s rare.

Darren:

So specifically what do you see as the biggest challenges facing the category and especially from a marketing perspective in the next two or three years?

Challenges Facing Higher Education Marketing

John:

There are a couple. One is very much bringing the customer into the centre of the decision making at the university. A number of universities don’t like to refer to students and their experience at university as a customer experience and because they don’t like to do that they don’t manage it.

So a lot of the decisions day to day in terms of new courses, course development, investments in facilities etc are being made without any consultation on what the actual customer wants or would prefer.

So I think there is a real opportunity for marketing in the future in universities to bring that customer focus in and provide universities with clear insights about what their students actually want moving forward and enable the universities to develop its customer experience and the satisfaction that drives with students.

So I think that’s very much one. I think the other one is, similarly with corporates, I think we’re going to see a strengthening of this concern that companies have that graduates are being taught the skills they need. There are now far more graduates or students going to university than there ever used to be and so to some degree the fact that you are a graduate is now worth less than it used to be. That’s a terrible thing when they’re looking for actual skills.

Darren:

It’s seamless.

John:

So what students want when they go to university is from the day they start, to start building a magical C.V. that makes them stand out from all other students. That’s what they want from day one. So great internships, great work experience, exposure to industry leaders rather than academics who haven’t worked in the industry for the last decade.

So universities will need to focus on delivering that or they risk big companies for example like Google or McKinsey partnering with a private provider to actually provide the Google degree.

Now, would you rather go to Sydney Uni or UNSW and do an IT degree or would you rather go to a private provider and do the Google degree knowing that so long as you hit certain grades you’re going to get an internship, you’re going to be exposed to Google executives and you’re going to get the latest thinking and graduate with what will be a great degree?

That could be easily done tomorrow.

So if employers don’t get the graduates with the skills they want from universities because universities have been too slow to evolve their offer, there is every opportunity they’ll partner with someone to get what they want.

Darren:

That raises a really interesting point from my perspective which is the brand and especially university brands. You just say university and I’m sure there are some universities that immediately pop into your head as brands because they’re top of mind even if you’re not working in the category, they just exist in the popular culture.

But they’ve been very stable as well. There’s been some new universities let’s say over the last 10 to 20 years or 30 years but it’s the older universities that have had these enduring brands and let’s just talk overseas like the Harvard’s and the Oxfords and the Yale’s; these are brands that have endured for hundreds of years, which is unusual because we now live in a world where brands are inclined not to survive the maturity debate.

I think it was 82% of the top 100 businesses on the U.S Stock Exchange in 1955 are no longer there so only 12% have survived since 1955. And you brought up Google—we’ve got all these brands that have popped up in the last 20 years. What’s the role for brand in tertiary education? And how can universities and the marketers be leveraging that harder than just focussing around data and customisation or personalisation?

John:

The role of the brand has been and today continues to be critical. It’s a very confusing world as a student choosing where to go to get your degree or indeed for an employer knowing exactly what a degree covered. Say I want to do an IT degree. What’s the difference between what is actually taught in IT at the five universities in Sydney? It’s very hard for a future student who hasn’t started yet or indeed an employer to know that.

So the proxy therefore is the brand and that’s why the brands have endured because 10 or 20 years ago it wasn’t so much even what degree you got, it was the fact that you got a degree from a well-known institution. That institution was very selective in who it let in and so if you managed to get in it didn’t really matter what you did, you’re clearly an accomplished individual and to an employer that’s very appealing.

Increasingly though, graduates are looking to get a degree that will get them a job and internships are becoming increasingly important to get that work experience and to get that C.V working really hard before they graduate. At the same time employers are very much looking for certain skills. They’ve found that accounting students who graduate don’t really have the skills they need to hit the ground running as an accounting graduate in a big four firm.

So why is that? Why can’t they have graduates actually graduate with the key skills? So that tension I think is going to change things and so certainly the likes of Oxford and Harvard are not under threat anytime soon but there is going to be an increasing pressure from employers and students to have work-ready graduates.

Those institutions that understand what that means better than others and actually develop courses to offer that and partnerships to offer that are probably the ones that are going to be more successful in moving forward. Those universities that stay offering the same course and the same degree they did 10, 20 years ago are more likely to be the ones that end up getting left behind.

Darren:

That’s a market pressure that’s incredibly disruptive to the academic structure that exists within many of these organisations isn’t it? Because it’s putting a market pressure on the delivery of the educational outcome.

John:

Well the disruption has already struck the university world in terms of the mass of online courses, the MOOCs. You can now at a free or very low cost go to a website and download a course and take that online from a well-known institute. The issue is that model isn’t working very well. Very few of us naturally learn at our best sat in front of a computer for hours on end and so the completion rate for those courses is just in the single digits.

But somebody soon will realise that the academic model can be changed and that taking that great learning start point and then backing it up with in-person support will actually get you a great outcome at a very low cost, get employers what they’re looking for in terms of the skills, give students what they’re looking for in terms of the experiences at a lower cost than they are being charged at the moment.

I think that disruption will shake things up significantly. So, I think we are getting there. Education has been slower than most to be transformed but the makings for the transformation are very much on the horizon and I think those institutes that are spending billions of dollars building buildings for students to sit in and be taught are not reading the signs that are already in the market that students don’t want that.

They want flexibility. They want to be able to learn when they’re available to learn, perhaps at home supported by peers and quality peers as they see it in that community and that the old structure of having to go into a university physically for your lecture and then go home and go back in for tutorials etc, isn’t something which is going to be popular with students in 10/20 years.

Darren:

It will be disrupted by the technology. It’s a fascinating category because it is a services industry but the traditions of it have made it almost ignore the basic business model that exists underneath it. In fact, in some ways the business model has almost been an anathema to the way it’s been delivered until now.

John:

If you speak to academics and vice-chancellors you’ll get two very clear schools of thought; some who think that the traditions around the universities will protect them moving forward in 10, 20 years, and others who believe that the model will break soon and that those universities that are far more agile and customer focussed will be the ones that survive.

Darren:

It’s interesting—whether it happens by brand i.e. university brand or whether it happens actually by the industry vertical. Because some industry verticals like law and accounting maybe seen as being more traditional and others like IT and Technology maybe embracing the change sooner. It’ll be interesting to see which, the horizontal or the vertical, actually drives the change.

John:

As the pace of change in industry increases, universities will need to respond eventually. Law and accounting are two prime examples where digital disruption is rapidly coming to those industries. The view in those industries is that your legal needs for example will be increasingly automated and the same with accounting.

Audit, the very cornerstone of the big four accounting firms is likely to be automated and disappear in the next 10 years so therefore what are we teaching our accounting students? What are we teaching our law students? We already have an issue where there are too many law graduates every year for the number of law jobs, and the number of law jobs is likely to decrease over time as that industry is increasingly automated–the same with accounting.

Either universities need to change the structure of the course and make it more relevant for those industries today and the future or indeed those courses are going to get left behind along with those parts of the industry. So disruption is absolutely coming; the pace of change for universities is only going to get faster and faster and faster.

For organisations that typically aren’t very agile, as you said, very traditional in the way that they approach the world and quite slow to change and quite slow to react it’s going to be very interesting as to how these market forces affect universities even the big university brands but certainly the smaller ones over the next few years.

Darren:

John, fascinating and loved catching up. Thank you for your time.

John:

Thank you, Darren.

Darren:

Just one final question—on the basis that those who can, do and those who can’t, teach, do you think there will ever be a time when we see you as professor of marketing like say Mark Ritson?

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About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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