Stamats Communications Inc., a provider of marketing and research to the higher education market, has acquired the Thorburn Group, a Minneapolis brand agency.

Tuesday’s acquisition by Stamats, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, will increase the range of services it offers to colleges and universities nationwide at a time when traditional higher education is facing increased competition from for-profit education groups such as Capella University and University of Phoenix. Terms were not disclosed.

The Thorburn Group has worked with consumer product clients such as Disney, Harley-Davidson, Target Corp. and Porsche. Stamats works with more than 150 public and private colleges and universities.

The companies made the announcement at Stamats’ sixth annual marketing conference in San Antonio, where representatives of colleges and universities gather to discuss ways to increase their brand awareness and grow enrollment.

“We are changing because you are changing,” Guy Wendler, president and CEO of Stamats, told conference attendees.

Stamats, founded in 1923 as a public relations firm, has specialized in higher education marketing and research since the 1950s. Today the company has 140 employees, with offices in San Francisco, Philadelphia and employees in 23 states. The company’s annual revenue are approximately $25 million.

“Our strategy at Stamats has been to be very deep and very narrow,” Wendler told the Star Tribune. As colleges and universities looked to the corporate world to hire top talent, Stamats saw the need to acquire new capabilities.

“There is a bit of evolution going on in the market,” Wendler said.

The Thorburn Group, founded in 1994, has 10 employees and a network of freelancers. The group will stay in its Minneapolis office and operate as a business unit within Stamats. Bill Thorburn will remain head of the Thorburn Group and become executive creative officer at Stamats.

The deal “gives us a great opportunity to get a deeper dive into research and digital and also a West Coast presence,” Thorburn said. “That was the kind of formula we were looking for.”

The Thorburn Group will continue to work with its traditional brand clients and also delve more into the higher education market at time when colleges and universities are looking to increase their brand awareness.

“They really do need to stand up and plant their flag in a traditional branding sense,” Thorburn said.