For years, politicians, pundits, critics, venture capitalists, and demographers have been touting the certain demise of higher education. They’ve decried the costs and beat up the value of the liberal arts. The rhetoric, navel-gazing, and long-held resistance to change have led to historic declines in trust across higher education. And many people today, for the first time in higher ed’s history, aren’t just asking what college to attend — they’re asking why college? to begin with.
At SimpsonScarborough, we’re optimists, and that’s why we've chosen “Onward” as our theme for 2024. We know higher education isn’t going anywhere, but we also know we can’t pretend it can continue marketing itself the way it has been. It’s about forging ahead, pressing onward, taking what we’ve learned about ourselves, our audiences, and our world, and carrying those lessons into the future.
The stakes for higher education marketing have always felt intense. And while we continue asking important questions about optimal budgets, structures, and areas of focus, it’s encouraging to see marketing leaders have advanced to working on the most strategic challenges for their schools.
We have entered the era of the higher ed CMO.
The role has never required more from you than it does right now; but, at the same time, the industry has never relied on you more than right now. This is our moment to right the ship, to tell the stories, and to remind the world what higher education is capable of.
We know the pressures on you as a marketer and a leader. We know the stakes for our industry are higher than ever. We also know that the unanswered questions in our academic world drive the most relevant and consequential conversations in society.
Everything depends on how we, as marketers, answer this question: how do you show your community and audience that higher ed is the answer?
After all, we know that nothing in the world can do what higher ed does. And come January 2024, it’s time to let everyone else know, too.
Jason Simon became SimpsonScarborough’s CEO in 2020 and has led the agency’s growth while championing the value of higher education and ensuring our work has a lasting impact. He lives in Oakland, CA, and if he's not working, he's likely on a tennis court. His favorite movie is Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and his favorite song is Clem Snide's "Love the Unknown." If you're familiar with either, you can figure him out pretty easily.