Newcomer Franklin University could create marketing mix-up for Franklin College

It could get expensive.

Ohio-based Franklin University’s decision to open a campus in Castleton sets up the potential for
significant name confusion with Franklin College, the liberal arts school 30 minutes south of Indianapolis.

One marketing expert predicts both schools will
be forced to pump up their advertising budgets to make sure their audiences understand the difference
between the two.

"Usually,
when companies have confused brands, the only way they overcome the competition is by outspending them," said Jim
Walton, CEO of Brand Acceleration, an Indianapolis-based marketing and branding firm.

Linda Steele, vice president of marketing for Franklin University, didn’t directly say whether
the school will spend more on marketing than it would have in a different market–one without another
school named Franklin.

Indianapolis is the first new U.S. market for Franklin University, which plans to expand in the Midwest and even in other
countries.

"Our research
shows that going into a new market requires a significant expenditure of marketing dollars, period," Steele
wrote in an e-mail. "The Franklin College situation requires that we are even more direct in our message and differentiate
ourselves from them."

Jay Moseley, president of Franklin College, said school officials aren’t sure what impact the presence of Franklin University
will have. Since Franklin University announced its Indianapolis campus in April, Franklin College has received a couple of
calls asking if the school changed its name.

Franklin College officials plan to use their June e-mail update to alumni and students to ask if Franklin University’s advertising
confuses them, Moseley said. They will formulate a response after that.

"We’re still trying to assess the situation," he said.

It’s not clear how much each school spends on marketing. Steele declined to release the value
of its Indianapolis campaign, which has featured radio spots so far and will branch into TV and the Internet
this summer.

Steele said
the spots have tried to emphasize words that set Franklin University apart from Franklin College, such as "university"
and "flexible" and "convenient" and "adult education."

Franklin College buys ads on youth-oriented radio stations, Web sites and magazines.

Both schools said their key point of differentiation
will be their academic programs.

Franklin College attracts high school graduates looking to earn the traditional four-year, liberal arts degree while living
on or near campus. Nearly all its students are ages 18 to 22.

"I think ‘college’ really expresses what we are," Moseley said. "We own the brand
Franklin College."

But Franklin University targets working adults who want additional education. Its average bachelor’s-degree student is 32.
Master’s-degree students average 36.

"All we’re trying to do is differentiate ourselves as a leader in adult education," Steele said in an interview,
adding that, "It’s going to be very clear that we’re not a liberal arts college."

Franklin University will bring to Indianapolis
its most popular programs, which include forensic accounting, business forensics, accounting and business
administration. The school will operate out of 20,000 square feet it leased at the Allison Pointe office
park off East 82nd Street.

It is in the process of recruiting a dean as well as faculty in 15 academic areas.

Walton said the differences are probably "crystal clear" in the minds of each school’s
officials, but he predicted that potential students will wind up confused and maybe even move on to different
schools altogether.

For
example, Franklin University could lose students to Ivy Tech Community College, which also enrolls lots of working adults,
he said. Or if high school students come to think Franklin College provides adult education, they might pick another Indiana
liberal arts school.

"That’s
part of the Internet society we live in today," Walton said. "If you don’t see the answer you want within three
to four seconds, it’s so easy to move on to something else."

Walton said he thinks Franklin University should have selected a different name for operating
in Indiana. But Steele said that was never an option. School officials did consider running ads that
said Franklin University is not Franklin College, but opted against them.

"The Franklin College issue came up and we really did have to take a step back and ask the
question whether that is a showstopper," Steele said. "Obviously, we think not, because we
chose to go forward."

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.