Information vs. Emotion: How to Appeal to Prospective Students

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Posted on November 20, 2019 by DCC Marketing

Google and CEB’s research shows that, more than ever, consumers are overwhelmed, stressed and paralyzed in the decision-making process. Being inundated with information-forward marketing efforts is a contributing factor to indecision and inaction across the board. Instead, work on emotional appeal and offer a prescriptive approach that guides and reassures the consumer through the process is key.

This theory is especially true for marketing in higher education and student recruitment. Prospective students are overwhelmed by choice, information and the emotional gravity of a “big” decision. By taking a prescriptive approach, marketers can help guide the student through the decision-making journey instead of selling the university itself. Instead of contributing to decision fatigue, provide refuge. The psychology of choice is an important consideration, particularly when it comes to monumental decisions. Humans, particularly at the high school/college age consider decisions as affirming to some aspect of their identity. Tapping into that idealized version of self is essential in effectively marketing to prospective students.

So what are the questions we should be asking?

Which emotions drive prospective students’ decisions? Consider positive and negative emotions such as fear, pride, complacency, hope and excitement.

What are the concerns that a prospective student may have about your institution? For example: cost, proximity, prestige, fit. Anticipating potential reservations allows you to direct the narrative and guide the decision process.

What are their hopes and dreams for the future? Stability, agency or impact? Appealing to intrinsic desire is the basis of all marketing, especially with emotional appeal.

With this information in mind, how do we successfully reach our goals?

  • Reduce indecision and compel action
  • Offer a manageable set of considerations
  • Make concrete, evidence-based recommendations
  • Without explicitly promoting your institution, facilitate progress along the decision-making continuum by leading to a solution you are uniquely able to provide
  • Track progress/remarket/stay top-of-mind

Gomez, N. T. B. A. C. (2017, September 19). The New B2B Sales Imperative. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 2019, from

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