Date of Award

Winter 2-25-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Cheryl Marie Osborne

Second Advisor

Melissa Brunson

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Lee


Purpose: The purpose of this phenomenological study was to identify and describe, through the lens of activity theory (AT), the challenges and best practices of marketing directors at private, non-profit higher education institutions on how they lead brand and culture alignment.

Methodology: This phenomenological study collected, analyzed, and triangulated data through 15 semi-structured interviews and the collection of artifacts. Data was then coded into themes, frequencies were calculated, and data was organized into the four categories of AT: tools, rules, community, and division of labor.

Findings: Examination of the data found that marketing directors experienced six challenges representing all four AT categories and seven best practices representing three out of the four AT categories. Division of labor and rules represented the most significant challenge marketing directors experienced, and division of labor was the most significant best practice that supported marketing directors leading brand and culture alignment at their private non-profit higher education institution.

Conclusions: Based on the findings and literature of this study, nine conclusions were drawn that offer deeper insight into the challenges and best practices marketing directors encountered as they led brand and culture alignment. The conclusions underscored the importance of authenticity in brand and culture alignment, of proactively building collaborative relationships with key stakeholders, of support from the institution’s most senior leaders, of providing the marketing team with sufficient resources and recognizing their expertise. In addition, the conclusions identified the need for marketing directors to proactively build brand education efforts, including educating new hires upon onboarding.

Recommendations: Further research should be conducted to explore this phenomenon through the lens of other populations, such as vice presidents of marketing, faculty and students. In addition, now that challenges and best practices have been identified, a deeper dive into these items would be beneficial to further define this phenomena.