At Kelsh Wilson, we talk with people at many schools and organizations who deeply appreciate the value of a good brand, but would struggle to say just what makes a brand good. Based on a three decades of experience, we’d love to share some answers.
First, for a definition. Yes, sometimes people use the term “brand” to mean just a logo. But for the purposes of this post, and in most important conversations organizations have about reaching their strategic goals, a brand means much more.
It’s the carefully designed image of your school or institution that you choose to project to the world. It’s your identity intentionally made public. That means not just a logo, but a look and feel and a story you tell.
So what makes that look and feel the right one? What makes that story sing? It boils down to four things:
You need to project the same image in the same way over time and stress the same messages in many different contexts. If you do so, you become known and recognized and maximize your marketing investment. If you don’t, it’s debatable whether you have established a brand at all.
Without creativity most school’s brands would be built around ideas such as academic excellence and community, or challenge combined with support. These may be valid, but they lack all impact. It takes imagination—visual and verbal—to leap beyond the expected into the territory of something memorable.
To stick, your brand must grow from your true strengths as an organization. It should tell the world in some real way what you stand for. Otherwise, you may succeed in generating a buzz, but you won’t be building a brand that your community can really own or that your audiences will ultimately believe.
Yes, a good brand tells the world who you really are, but it needs to do so in a way that will help you get where you want to be. One way to think of this is in terms of your organization’s current image and your target image—how you’re seen now and how you need to be seen to be positioned to advantage in the competitive landscape. The idea is to reveal your organization’s identity with a particular awareness of the strengths that matter most to your target audiences, that set you most clearly apart from peers, and that correct any misperceptions standing between you and greater enrollment, giving, and respect.
We know this can sound like a tall order. “All” you need for a great brand is consistency, creativity, honesty, and strategy. As if that weren’t hard enough, we also know that the toughest challenges involve the how—how to define a brand in a way that will encourage consistency, how to sort through a sea of market research to find clarity in strategy.
So please look for future posts where we’ll dive deeper into these questions. Or give us a call. We’d love to talk!