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Brands Don’t Get a Summer Break

Colleen McCormack
Marketing Specialist

Summer on university campuses is different than traditional semesters. There are fewer students, campus services have different hours, the campus feels more relaxed.  Those who are on campus are there for intentional reasons. Students are taking classes to get ahead in their majors, or making up a class. Faculty and staff are there to work. Despite the time of year, the focus on campus is still academic.

And yet, many marketing campaigns for summer courses look like campuses are offering vacation activities. Ads for summer courses often feature “summery” sun-and-surf style graphics that are engaging and capture the feeling of the season. But they may have unintended consequences.  The summery, fun graphics can imply that academics in the summer are somehow less serious than those same classes offered during the fall and spring. The unique graphics approach that departs greatly from the college’s brand approach during the rest of the year, suggests that summer classes are a unique event rather than a part of the institutions year-round academic offerings. In effect, creating a gap in the brand.

Summer-Session-Masthead-Indexsummers coolmake summer count

Summer is a great time to reinforce your institution’s brand and the caliber of your academic offerings. It’s a way to remind students that no matter when they take courses they get the same caliber of education. After all if students are studying during the summer, they’re not likely to think of it as summer vacation. Rather, they want the reassurance that the commitment they are making will help them further their academic objectives.

From that point of view, ads should capitalize on the core elements of your brand and reinforce that those elements are central to summer programs. Done well, your summer advertising will not only draw students to those programs, but will remind students and prospective students that academic quality doesn’t take a summer vacation at your institution.

The University of Chicago sends a clear brand message. They are about an intellectual destination, transformative education, groundbreaking research, and a commitment to enrich society. These drivers are clearly shown in their summer course microsite.


Another example of beneficial summer marketing is from UC Berkeley. “That’s Berkeley” is a clear brand message campaign that is expanded across all platforms. The summer courses microsite is branded in a similar way as their year-long campaign.

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