Brand equity of Open University of Cyprus.
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The competition among Universities skyrocketed in the past few years, which has driven Universities to adopt new marketing strategies such as branding (Becher & Trowler, 2001). Branding, the main focus of this study, has evolved over the centuries, from originally been used to mark ownership and convey the quality of livestock to today’s concept where it expresses customer’s ideals and personalities (Chapleo, 2015; Briciu & Briciu, 2016). The purpose of this thesis is to investigate OUC’s Brand Equity, via carrying out a survey among its stakeholders. DATA COLLECTION and ANALYSIS PROCESS This study was based on the collection of primary data, via a questionnaire, and secondary data. The data analysis techniques used were: percentage analysis and statistical tools such as mean, Standard Deviation and Fisher Exact Test. RESULTS In total there were 105 responses, 35% of which were associated with OUC, being either an Employee (Administrative or Academic), alumni, student or a combination of all three. In summary the results of the study were the following: Brand recall questions, emphasize the necessity for further research and more aggressive marketing strategies, as only half of the Cypriot residents and only 25% of the non-Cypriots recalled OUC. Furthermore 17% of responders, actually believed that OUC is part of the University of Cyprus, with more than half already being familiar with OUC, while two of them are a current student and an alumna. Another disappointing result came from the question “Do you believe OUC’s degrees are equivalent, accredited and trustworthy?” where 69% of those not associated with OUC and 16% of those associated with the University gave a negative reply or were not sure. With the majority (78%) of these individuals stating that would not consider OUC for a future hypothetical degree. Whereas questions concerning Brand Image value have indicated that most individuals associate OUC logo with negative feelings, while their perception in regards to OUC self-descriptive characteristics needs to be improved for all attributes. However, before aiming for the brand to be associated with these characteristics by the general public, they must be believed and embraced by OUC’s administrative and academic societies. One of the most important factors in brand marketing is for the organization’s team to believe in its vision and pass this belief and love to the customers. To test Brand Loyalty, responders were asked if they would recommend OUC to others. Eighty-one percent replied yes, while 19% replied no. From the last group 16% are employees (with one third of them also being a current or a former OUC student) and the 3% being OUC alumni. Individuals with such beliefs could affect OUC’s reputation and thus damage its Brand Image. This data suggests that OUC should examine how to improve the internal culture of the University and aim for a high standard of quality in all services offered. Peer recommendation is one of the most important factors for a solid and positive brand, and thus customer and employee satisfaction should be a priority. Out of the 19% that replied no, their 4 main reasons for this negative attitude were: the fact that there are no prerequisites for admission, lack of organization, poor quality of teaching and low prestige degrees. Based on the results of this study a number of recommendation have been given and discussed throughout the chapters. Hopefully, these will provide the essential information needed to create a solid brand, reinforce advertising, promote courses and establish OUC as a successful and unique University in the market. However, one must always keep in mind that despite literature on Higher Education Branding, one must be realistic and have in mind that University Branding is too complex to express in a concise brand scheme.