Three Steps to Building a Brand That Resonates
Brand Building for Educational Institutions
Building a brand that resonates with your audience requires many things. Schools for example, must provide relevant curriculum, quality instruction, and high-tech classrooms. But beyond these functional attributes of education, students are also looking for emotional rewards to engagement. These are often the intangible attributes that make the fit feel right.
For example, things like history and tradition may factor into one prospect’s decision process, while service and sense of community may carry more weight for another. A firm understanding of what makes your prospects tick and an inventory of what makes your institution unique will get you started. Here are the three steps to building an effective brand.
Conduct research if necessary, but know your customer’s needs, habits and preferences through and through. Marketplace positioning and visual/verbal queues should be developed to support their desires. But it’s important to be honest about who you are and what you offer. If your prospects are seeking a flexible, online education and you’re a traditional, campus-based institution, then they’re really not your prospects, are they?
Develop key messages and create the “voice” to reflect your brand. Make sure the user experience you provide matches that voice and position yourself in channels your users will frequent and through means they’ll appreciate. Then listen, measure and refine. Make adjustments to the plan as necessary until key components are finely tuned and understood by the marketplace.
People need to know what you offer, but that’s only half the battle. They also must feel compelled to engage, which requires an emotional connection to your brand. Help them see the values, beliefs and purpose you share with them to build that connection.
Ask yourself what makes your organization unique or valuable? What qualities can “buyers” affiliate with your brand and appreciate on a personal level? Defining your organization’s unique attributes, your distinctive voice and your reason for being (what separates you from everyone else) is that important first step.
From a logo standpoint, the following examples demonstrate two disparate displays of emotional engagement.
While the Harvard name itself conjures up images of exclusivity, excellence and tradition, you’ll agree their brand colors, typeface and design communicate the same feelings. That’s a good thing – their image is congruent with their distinct story.
Presumably, it is also doing a good job of engaging the type of students they seek to attract.
At the other end of the positioning spectrum, is Trafford College. They too, are a well-respected institution of higher learning, touting significant recognition and successful alum to their name. However, they have branded themselves to reflect their diverse, modern and all-inclusive culture. Assuming that’s who they really are, this mark is equally effective in communicating their brand promise to targets as Harvard is to their prospects.
The bottom line is to go beyond the “what” your institution does and arrive at the “why” you exist. Once your brand reflects that purpose, users who can relate to it are the ones who become predisposed to your marketing messages.
You’ve done the strategic work. You’ve made a compelling emotional appeal. Now integrate your brand into relevant communication channels and be consistent in its application. Websites, brochures and even face-to-face conversations should communicate deliberate messages, which support your strategy and properly position the brand. Stick to it and keep your brand from straying off course.
Does your image and user experience adequately reflect your organization’s core values? Does it set you apart from your competitors? Does it engage your prospects and move them to action?