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Expert View: Turns out, brands really do matter in higher education


Sina Esteky, a marketing professor at the Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and his colleagues have found a placebo effect on academic coursework associated with strong brands.

Esteky’s research found that course materials could be identical, but if one student is handed materials labeled from Harvard University and the other student is handed the same materials labeled from a local community college, the student who sees the Harvard name will perform better. The research, recently published in the Journal of Marketing for Higher Education , is the first to show that educational material connected with prestigious brands increases motivation and improves performance on concentration, memorization and numerical reasoning.

Esteky recently spoke with The Business Journals ’ Hilary Burns about the study and the importance of branding in a competitive U.S. higher-ed landscape, to the detriment of hundreds of small colleges that lack brand recognition. The following is an edited transcript of the conversation:

Could you talk more about the study?

Over the past 10 to 15 years, there’s been interest among marketing scholars to see how placebo effects occur in a marketing context. How does pricing, branding or other marketing efforts create these illusions that the […]

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