Education Branding | 6 Ways it Can Help Public Schools
Strong brands make a difference. Ongoing research shows that the world’s 40 strongest brands yielded 96% more profits than companies on the MSCI stock index — almost twice the total return to shareholders.¹
How does this relate to public schools? Public schools offer a service — educating America’s children. Similar to private schools (whether for-profit or nonprofit), public schools need to appeal to families in order to attract and retain students. To do this, public schools, just like other organizations, need to create emotional connections with students and families as well as teachers and staff in order to engage hearts and minds.
Today, when parents are in the process of deciding at which school they will enroll their children, they have more choices than ever before: Will they attend the local public school? Open enroll into the charter school specializing in STEM or language immersion? Or, will they choose the private school in the neighboring town? Perhaps they’ll choose to homeschool. Or, maybe they’ll give online school a try.
Developing strong public school brands helps define a school or district’s purpose and its ethos, which informs decisions that create the overall experience.
A strategic approach to developing brands enables organizations of any type to define their purpose, and align their policies, practices and behaviors to deliver on its promises. A robust brand strategy enables organizations to connect every decision it makes back to its purpose in order to create a customer experience that delights.
Below are 6 ways branding can help public school districts:
- Differentiation from competing districts and schools. Expressing a public school district’s distinctive qualities in a way that is authentic and helps it stand apart from other schools and districts is one of the biggest benefits that a strong brand can provide. When you think of your favorite restaurant or airline brand, there are probably many points of contact that come to mind that you love. We refer to these as brand “touchpoints.” In the case of your favorite restaurant it may be everything from the food, building, vibe, wait staff and music to the menu design, cleanliness of the restrooms and way you’re treated when things go awry. The same argument can be made for schools. How it feels to be part of one school district can be extremely different from another.
- Delivering greater value. Public schools return value to taxpayers by helping children reach their full potential so they can become productive citizens who make positive contributions to society. If you think about it, taxpayers are investors in the public school system. And public schools with strong brands are in a position to deliver better performance than those with weak brands because they’ll attract and retain more students and families. More students equals increased funding, which means districts can better serve its students. While branding public schools is different from public companies, in both cases we’re dealing with the need to create value for the “investor.”
- Attracting and retaining students, families, teachers and staff. Having a unique brand story and distinctive, differentiated brand identity can help public schools form strong bonds with current students and families. In some cases, these bonds are so strong that they attract other families to their particular cities. For some school districts, there’s something about their “brand” that is magnetic. When we think about the high cost of teacher turnover, where some school districts spend $20,000² to onboard and train every new teacher, it is well worth the effort to invest in building a strong brand that can help you appeal to and keep top talent.
- Delivering a consistent brand and “customer” experience for students, families, teachers and staff. Having a well-articulated, authentic brand strategy and a 360 degree approach to brand management in place ensures a consistent brand experience that aligns with and helps school districts to deliver on promises and expectations. Like the restaurant example above, your brand isn’t just your school logo, font, school colors, mascot or even your brand guidelines. It’s ALL of this, and much more. The strongest brands deliver an experience that is intentionally designed — from beginning to end.
- Creating affinity through strong emotional connections. Brands have the capacity to build emotional connections so deep that they create enviable loyalty within all stakeholder groups — teachers, parents, students, staff and even the community. This is the true power of brand. Think Nike, Starbucks, and in the world of higher ed — Harvard and Yale. Each of these brands elicits an emotional response. The same can be true for public school brands.
- Improving marketing effectiveness and saving money through consistency that offers immediate brand recognition across all brand touchpoints in every communication channel. This means you may spend less money to be recognized and enables you to get more from your marketing budget. Additionally, creating templates is easier and ensures all brand expression is aligned, consistent and on-brand. Our work for one Fortune 100 company saved them, in the words of their purchasing agent, “millions of dollars” annually by reducing the need for redundant creative concept development.
So, where do you begin? If any of this resonates, you can learn more by reviewing our case study for Hopkins Public Schools here. Or, reach out to us at email@example.com, or call 612-338-1700. We’d love to learn more about your particular circumstances.
¹ Source: Stock market index of 1,646 world stocks maintained by Morgan Stanley Capital International. Source: McKinsey Marketing & Sales Practice.
² Source: Learning Policy Institute, What’s the Cost of Teacher Turnover?, published September 13, 2017.