Brands are often considered to be something that businesses or organisations have to control how their logo or perhaps their marketing materials look and feel. However a brand is much more than just visual guidelines, it’s about who you are, what you do, and what your values are as a business, organisation, charity or indeed a school. A well configured and effectively managed brand drives how your organisation is perceived rather than leaving it to chance.

There has been a period of flux within the education sector, resulting in independent schools ‘upping their game’ to react to economic, social and government driven change. A school’s brand should lead how they compete in their market place and affect why someone would choose them over another; it should identify what their unique propositions are as a school. We meet with lots of schools each year and a common issue is how they compete within their specific market place – what they are actually asking is how they can differentiate themselves from the competition and better show their strengths as a school. This is where brand truly plays a role.

A brand within a school covers everything; academic success, sporting prowess, focus on the arts, history and heritage, links with other educational institutions, religious steer, location and much more. For a parent, any one or all of these factors are relevant. It’s rarely ever one thing that will attract a parent or student to your school, it’s more likely to be a mixture of things that show balance or suit their individual needs. More often than not, focusing on a single strength alone can be counter-intuitive.

For example, a school might have a reputation for academic success – something no school would complain about! Unfortunately, with this reputation sometimes comes whisperings of a ‘hot house’ approach, suggesting that the school as a result of its academic success has less focus on the student wellbeing. The truth may be that the school has an exceptional pastoral care programme, but this isn’t part of their reputation. Brand can help to alter that perception.

At the other end of the scale, a school could have been through a period of special measures and is now doing well academically following intervention by skilled practitioners. However the stigma of being a historically troubled school is still lingering and affecting admission numbers. A re-launched brand that says all the right things about the school as it is now, not hiding but acknowledging the past and putting it safely behind them, can help a school to attract parents and students to the school.

Oyster works with schools in lots of different situations, helping them to accentuate their positives and promote themselves within their market place. If your school needs guidance about brand, web, design or any other part of the marketing mix we’d love to hear from you. Contact Mike or Anna on hello@oysterdesign.co.uk or call the studio on 01243 389713.