A Look at Fraternity/Sorority Marketing From Above

Let’s look at marketing for fraternities and sororities from above.

Try not to think about your individual campus or organization, but instead think about the entire industry’s brand reputation. Now more than ever the reputation of one chapter on a campus far away from your home chapter absolutely impacts your own group’s potential for success.

It’s time for us to engage in collaborative conversations around taking control of our collective story. We want to help lead those conversations.

Smart, forward-looking fraternal organizations have a big opportunity ahead of them. The demographic and psychographic makeup of future college students is experiencing a dramatic shift. The fraternity/sorority industry has a chance to get ahead of this wave of new students and serve them with forethought and excellence. Innova is proud to provide marketing services that are informed by the research about this new wave of students.

Millenials are a generation of the past. As most readers already know, students entering college today are part of a very different mindset, influenced by very different world events. They’re called “Generation Z” and Innova has been intensely studying all the research about this new generation of college students – their interests, priorities, and worldview. The early research on Gen Z suggests they see the world in a blended way – their relationship to racial and gender identity is far different than previous generations. Gen Z is financially conservative – the skyrocketing cost of higher education combined with a major recession experienced during their formative years have influenced their relationship with money. Gen Z students are seeking a stable family and practical career development – their experience with post-9/11 world instability make them crave stability and pragmatic opportunities for career advancement. Gen Z students are creators – nearly ½ expect to be their own boss, and nearly 40% plan to invent something that will change the world. These are just a few of the insights that should inform a collegiate student organization’s brand promises.

These are just a few of the insights that should inform a collegiate student organization’s brand promises.

Meanwhile the landscape of U.S. college student enrollment is getting murkier, which means the future growth potential of fraternities and sororities is unclear. On one hand, the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) projected last year that the college freshman class of 2025 would be the largest and most ethnically diverse in history based on overall birth rates. On the other hand, traditional-aged, 4-year, residential college students seem to be an outgoing phenomenon – only making up 20-30% of all college enrollees (depending on the source). With out-of-control college costs and a highly questionable political landscape around the topic, the traditional 18 to 22-yearold on-campus college experience might be a dinosaur-like experience.

The bottom line is that effectively marketing the history and tradition of fraternities and sororities to today’s and tomorrow’s college student will require a more creative approach than our history and tradition has demonstrated. Innova has a deep respect for our fraternal history, but we are motivated to catch our industry’s marketing efforts up to the students of tomorrow.

Here are six important insights that guide our work at Innova.

  • Taking back the story of fraternity/sorority won’t be done through mass media buys, press releases, talking about what we’re not, crisis communications, or campaigns that are really just aimed at making us feel better about ourselves. We have to decide on an audience (high quality future members) and enchant them with a story about themselves with fervor, patience, and discipline.
  • All news is local. We have to mobilize our undergraduate leaders in the telling of the Greek Life story. It has to be their story.
  • The best defense is a good offense. We simply can not keep sitting back and hoping nothing bad happens — only to clumsily try to defend ourselves when it inevitably does. We must be assertive and persistent in the shaping of our industry’s story.
  • Our fraternal reputation hasn’t hurt our numbers (due to a number of contributing factors), but it has hurt our potential to attract high quality, low-risk members. We can aim a better story at better students and make better (and safer) organizations.
  • Fraternity/sorority marketing must be relationship-centered. We’re in a people business. Smart communications about Greek Life will not only reinforce a core narrative, but more importantly they will create real opportunities for human interaction with our best members.
  • The message that strikes first wins. The industry will win the communications game over time if it is positioned to tell the story to incoming students (and H.S. students) before anyone else can.

We’d love to work with your campus community or inter/national organization to help you build smart marketing strategies.