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Rebranding an Institution of Higher Education in Botswana - IntroductionRebranding refers to a process of giving an existing brand another name, term, sign, symbol, design, or a combination of brand elements, intended to identify the value provided by an institution of higher education and to differentiate it from competitors. An institution of higher education may rebrand itself to signal to the key target markets that it has modified its strategic focus and to keep abreast with the challenge of an increasingly competitive and dynamic educational environment. Rebranding could also be undertaken when the current brand is no longer relevant and does not result in customer loyalty, acquisition of new clients, or the desired brand image.
Effective branding in institutions of higher education requires a critical understanding of the perceptions of the key target markets such as students, employees, employers, alumni, donors and the general public (Pesch, Calhoun, Schneider, & Bristow, 2008). Although considerable research has been done on branding in institutions of higher education, published research based on Sub-Sahara Africa and Botswana in particular is relatively limited. However, institutions of higher education in Botswana operate in an increasingly competitive educational environment and need to meet the needs of the direct and primary consumers of education better than their competitors. For example, in a bid to stay relevant, especially with intense competition from newly established privately-owned tertiary institutions, the University of Botswana decided to modify its logo, symbols and corporate colors in 2008.
Thus, in order to improve the cumulative body of literature on branding in institutions of higher education, the primary focus of the current study is to identify the perceptions of students about the impact of rebranding on the brand equity of an institution of higher education. Specifically, the objectives of the current study are to (1) compare perceptions of students about the brand equity of the University of Botswana between the old and new logo, and (2) assess the effects of brand equity on overall attitude towards the new University of Botswana logo. The concept of customer-based brand equity has provoked various definitions. According to Keller, customer-based brand equity is the differential effect of brand knowledge on a consumer’s response to the marketing of the brand which occurs when a consumer is familiar with the brand and holds strong brand associations. This definition gives insight into how consumers select and choose a brand (Netemeyer, et al., 2004). It also enables marketers to suggest unique programs for marketing a brand, evaluate how consumers respond to the marketing of a brand and how marketing efforts improve the value of the brand (Keller, 1993). Within the context of institutions of higher education, customer-based brand equity is concerned with the way prospective students, alumni, legislators, donors, employees, employers and the general public (i) perceive the value added to an institution by associating it with a brand name and (ii) their response to the marketing of an institution’s brand.
Customer-based brand equity is a multidimensional construct. According to Washburn and Plank customer-based brand equity is described as comprising three dimensions — consumer knowledge, familiarity, and associations with respect to the brand. Based on the fact that brand knowledge is central to the definition of customer-based brand equity, it was further defined on the basis of brand awareness and brand image. Additionally, brand awareness was sub-divided into brand recall and recognition which signifies familiarity and commitment while brand image is represented by the brand associations held in consumer memory. Aaker suggested that customer-based brand equity comprises five dimensions: brand loyalty, brand awareness, perceived quality, brand associations, and other proprietary brand assets, such as trademarks and patents. Keller and Lehmann proposed five dimensions of customer based brand equity: brand awareness, associations, attitudes, attachment, and activity. Yoo and Donthu also suggested that collectively customer based brand equity is based on brand awareness, brand loyalty, brand associations and perceived quality.