Global Marketing Manager, Interactive Schools
Shaping Your Appeal:
Brand is the most misunderstood element of modern marketing. While many organisations can boast a harmonious colour palette and fancy logo, few are able to effectively define and communicate their core values in a way that ensures a meaningful connection with their audiences.
Take a moment to think about all the schools you’ve ever worked in. They’re all unique, right? But it’s incredibly likely those schools marketed themselves using the same messages: educating the whole child, stimulating intellectual curiosity and developing a global perspective.
Sadly, many school marketers excuse themselves from developing a unique and emotive brand identity because of a similarity in product offer. Independent schools usually offer variations on a theme of three main objectives: fantastic academic outcomes, great pastoral care, and an exciting extra-curricular offer. However it’s this very fact that requires schools to craft a brand narrative that transcends aims and goals, and instead focuses on unique, intangible qualities.
Some Headteachers would refute the fact that their school’s brand isn’t strongly established with the argument “but everybody knows about us and we’re over-subscribed every year”. While this may be true, complacency always leads to stagnation and disregarding the need for an identity that looks beyond enrolment numbers creates a huge opportunity for your competitors to develop a superior brand proposition.
Understand your market
When thinking about your brand, an understanding of audiences is critical – only then can you craft a narrative that resonates with their values. Are your parents aspirational, eager for their child to reach the top? Are they sending their children to you because generations of their family have been educated at the school? Do you focus on building resilience and instilling a sense of adventure that appeals to them? Or is it simpler than that; because you’re located on the daily commute or have a great arts programme and their child loves drama?
You might not know the answer to these questions but getting hold of the data will be helpful as you start to determine what you stand for. This will provide structure for your school’s strategic vision and ensures your brand identity withstands the test of time.
Independent Schools are exclusive… there, we said it! Whilst many of your schools will have life-changing bursary programmes and inspiring cross-sector partnerships, which should be applauded and celebrated, the reality is that independent schools offer a superior product that is desired by many and available to only a few. This is the hallmark of luxury, and this should be reflected in the brand experience you offer. From the moment prospective families enquire, independent schools must deliver an exceptional, coherent brand experience.
While academic results and university destinations might have some influence on a prospective family’s decision, history tells us that people buy brands because of the emotional connection they feel to them. Why else would parents pay for something that they can get for free if the end product – an education – is the same? We all know it’s not quite that simple, but when you strip it down to the bare bones, parents are paying for a premium product and service, like shopping at Waitrose or flying business class.
While some families might have been educated privately for generations and see it as ‘just the done thing’, many parents will be scrimping and saving all the spare cash they have in order to give their children the very best start in life. Both, rightly, expect to be treated as a valued customer.
Live and breathe it
Now that we’ve determined that brand is really about values and purpose, start to think about how to bring it to life. This needs to be driven by the Head and fed down to your teaching staff. The marketing team can help to shape messaging and implementation, but it’s teachers who are best placed to champion exciting initiatives for your school community.
Once those initiatives start to chime with your audiences’ values, then you can be confident of enhanced brand affinity, a rising reputation and the admissions email pinging – and that’s exactly where you want to be!
What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben Weston-Conway is a CIM qualified marketer and the Global Marketing Manager for Interactive Schools.
ABOUT INTERACTIVE SCHOOLS
Interactive Schools is an established and well-respected global company, with a start-up culture. Always innovating new (and better) ways to improve school communications – we incubate new tech ideas that actually makes a difference to schools.
Interactive Schools believe that every school is unique, and want to help tell their #SchoolStories. Interactive Schools differentiate, by creating bespoke, immersive & Beautiful #SchoolWebsites, Creative #SchoolMarketing, Engaged #SocialMedia and Effective #ParentComms.