Branding – Feb, 2021

Reasons for a school re-brand

As with all sorts of organisations, there may be many reasons why a school would re-brand.

It may be to do with a complete structural change such as a merger of schools or federation. It may be to re-enegise, re-inspire and create more internal cohesion.

Or, it may be more because of external perceptions, for example to articulate a stronger set of ideas about the institution. To make the school better known, attract more pupils and recruit talent. There may be other strategic objectives that could be served well by a school re-branding. Whatever the reason is, it is important the school and brand design agency are clear from the outset what the overarching objective is for change and the senior leadership team are seen to be committed to this rationale. Without this, the project may be seen as superficial, lacking rigour and ultimately not likely to be a success.

A school may offer academic and pastoral excellence, have motivated and committed staff with strong senior leadership and still this may not be enough for its survival. There are plenty of examples of excellent schools failing to communicate their great strengths before their ultimate demise. Parents expect academic and pastoral excellence from schools, especially if there are fees involved. This should not be used as a differentiator, the expectation is excellence as standard. The onus to tease out the meaningful differences is on the design agency. After all, every school is unique, it is a question of identifying particular qualities, articulating these virtues and strengthening them so they run through the fabric of the institution. 

Sometimes schools may require more modifications and modulations of what currently exist. Other occasions require more dramatic interventions. What is almost universally true though is the need for professional assistance to obtain a successful school re-brand. Most educational institutions tend not to be sufficiently self-aware or impartial to carry out the necessary ground work. Moreover, they are not likely to be adequately experienced in the necessary disciplines to manage a branding programme themselves. Pupil involvement can be an attractive component to a school re-brand project however, this is often likely to add to a further level complexity not less. Choosing the right brand design agency for a school re-brand project is critical. Is the agency sufficiently experienced in this kind of work? Have they worked before in this sector? Does the personal chemistry work and who will the school be dealing with? 

Ultimately a successful outcome relies on a clear and unambiguous brief, commitment from the senior leadership team and the creativity and hard work of the agency. Relatively straight-forward. Internal staff need to understand the design rationale – the fundamental promise – and why their participation in the implementations of a strong brand identity leads to success. A successful brand identity project never ends. They must be well managed, develop and grow, they are not static, much of this can be managed in-house. Care, thought and vigilance are necessary to build brands that are meaningful now but importantly long lasting to be ready for the future.

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Posted by Jack Owen