When someone mentions expiration date, you might think of a carton of milk or eggs — not your school’s brand. But just like fridge staples, brands don’t last forever, and when you get a whiff of one that’s gone stale, well…it’s pretty obvious.
But how do you know?
We wish we could give you a concrete number that would communicate just how long your brand elements will last. For some schools, it’s five years. For others, a brand can last a decade or even longer before needing a revamp. It really all depends on your unique audience, your specific challenges, and any changes that take place within your school or community.
What is a brand?
Before we address whether your brand has expired, we should first review what it is. A brand is comprised of a great many things. What we see is often what we first think of. A logo is what typically comes to mind for most. The golden arches, the swoosh, or an apple. All icons that represent three of the most recognized brands in the world.
While the image (or logo) clearly represents the company, it’s the entire experience that defines the brand. When you interact with any of these companies, as part of the brand experience you will see advertisements, view websites and social posts, talk with associates, as well as use their products/service. If any of that experience feels inconsistent, lacks quality, or attention to detail, your perception of that company that will likely be impacted. Consistency can be the difference between a good brand and a great brand.
So if your brand is more than a logo, what is it?
There are vital components that make up your brand identity. These components include; your logo, tagline, school colors, fonts, photography, messaging, and brand standards. All are incredibly vital pieces of your marketing platform. They carry a multitude of information about the who, what, and why of your school. Knowing more about what that information includes will begin to inform if yours is outdated.
While there is no magic number, there are some tell-tell signs that you need to rebrand, or simply refresh your current brand. Here are the top three:
1. You’re Dealing with Perception Issues
When a prospective parent sees your brand, your purpose should be clear. Just like a business logo should communicate what they do, a school’s brand should reflect its mission, vision, and educational philosophy. Of course, a parent may not be able to recite your mission statement after one exposure to your logo, but their gut feeling about your school should be on par with what they’ll experience later.
Common perception issues include, but are not limited to:
- Old school: If your brand has an outdated look and feel, parents might think you’re behind the times when it comes to education, too.
- Off budget: Every parent has financial considerations when it comes to their child’s education. Your brand and its message should help you attract families who can afford your tuition.
- Academic rigor: How challenging is your curriculum? Your brand should help you enroll students who will thrive in your school.
- Academic philosophy: If your school has a faith-based mission, your brand should reflect those values.
- Offerings: If you’ve had a change in offerings (i.e. recently added a preschool, a high school, a language program, or special support services for students with learning differences), your brand should communicate the new breadth of service.
- Word of Mouth: Someone had a negative experience with your school or with someone connected to your school, and they have shared that experience with others.
- Inconsistent brand elements: Not keeping your brand consistent across all your communication channels may have a negative impact on how your school is viewed.
Getting out in front of these issues can be challenging. Some of them can be resolved with a clear focus on the brand experience. Each and every touchpoint you have with a prospective family should clearly align with your core value proposition and support your brand.
Whether it is academic excellence, a thriving sports program, or a strong set of family values, each touchpoint can provide a clear connection to these themes. Prospective families move through many stages during the enrollment experience, make sure your logo and brand components battle perceptions and provide a clear picture of who you are.
2. You’re Not Connecting With Your Target Families
If you’re getting unqualified leads, it may be due to poor targeting or difficulty connecting brand components to your target market. Many school marketing directors and enrollment teams find it extremely frustrating to connect with families who are simply not the right fit for their school. And rightly so — those are budget dollars down the drain. An unqualified lead might look like this:
- A family who feels your tuition is out of their price range
- A family with a child whose grade level you do not serve
- A family whose values are not in alignment with your mission
- A family who lives too far away and can’t make the commute to school.
The more relevant you are to your target market, the more seats you can fill, donations you’ll receive, and benefits you experience. Of course, to determine whether you’re connecting with the right families requires a strong understanding of your target audience.
Your logo should also convey the essence of your message. Your message carries your mission, vision, values and so much more. The logo is a visual representation of all of these things and is conveyed in the icon, font, color and much more. Here are a few examples where key message themes are aligned in the logo.
- FedEx: Always moving forward (arrow built into E and x)
- Adidas: Conquering the mountain (three stripes growing in height)
- Airbnb: People, places, love, Airbnb (people, map, and heart)
In the latter example, we find that the visual conveys 3 elements that Airbnb visualized in the following way. Their logo communicates its three primary value propositions in a singular image.
If you want to connect with prospective families, consider visually linking your key themes in a way that communicates the core message of your school.
3. Your Enrollment is at a Standstill (or Declining)
A strong brand is foundational. It needs to resonate with your school community, as well as prospective parents and students. One of the simplest ways to understand whether or not your brand has expired is by looking at enrollment numbers.
- If you are thriving and staying relevant, your brand is likely one factor driving that success.
- If you are struggling to fill seats and connect with new, qualified families, a rebrand should be strongly considered.
The reason your brand is a core part of your marketing effort is that a brand is more than just a logo or tagline, it is not only comprised of the components we defined earlier; logo, tagline, colors, fonts, photography, messaging, and brand standards, but a culmination of the entire experience someone has with your school. So if you’re experiencing an enrollment slump, look across the entire brand spectrum and enrollment experience to determine if your logo and it’s components should be updated to reflect the renewed focus on creating meaningful connections at each stage a family makes with your school.
Discover More About Branding Your School
Making changes to your brand is a big decision. As you can see, it’s not just about updating visual elements; it’s about capturing the identity of your school, connecting with your families and prospective families, and positioning yourself for growth through solid messaging. The costs of putting off a brand update are often much higher than investing in these initiatives now.
We invite you to learn more about how branding helps drive enrollment by contacting our team to determine if your brand is in need of an update.