Donovan Group Insights

Identity Alchemy: The Transformational Power of School Branding

When people think of brands, they think of companies that sell products at the store. However, branding isn’t exclusive to companies trying to sell you something! Schools have brand identities, too, whether you’ve thought about it much or not. That brand identity should be well-developed and present in all communications.

Let’s take stock of what already exists in your school—core values, a mission statement, colors, a mascot—and explore how these defining traits can amplify school branding.

Mission

A mission is central to your school’s identity. As such, it also plays an important role in your branding efforts. Mission statements are critical for branding because they show how your school is different than all the others. They articulate what your school is doing to improve education and the lives of those in your community. Much like its mission statement, your school’s brand needs to be equally unique, and you can achieve that by infusing the mission into messaging.

You can always find a way to incorporate your school’s mission statement into branded messaging. For example, your school board might be trying to pass a referendum that would fund the construction of a new playground. The campaign messaging could say, “This new playground would provide enhanced safety for young students while enriching their experiences outside of the classroom.” The message ties back to a mission that’s focused on providing a safer, enriching educational environment.

Vision

Your school’s vision for the future is another component to incorporate into school branding. As a leader, you have a very clear idea of your school’s vision. However, Audience members might not. Referencing this vision in branded messaging differentiates your school from others in surrounding districts, and the vision will also help unify your audiences around a common purpose. Define your school’s vision, and make it part of your communications.

Let’s say your school’s vision for the future is a world where every student has access to all the resources they need to excel in academics and life beyond school. You could create a social media post promoting support services with a message that says, “These resources are part of our commitment to helping every student succeed, regardless of their background or abilities.” In this example, your school’s vision remains the central focus of the message.

Values

Core values are a defining feature of your school’s brand image. They illustrate not only how your school should speak and act, but also how the students, staff, and families in your community should speak and act. Much like the mission and vision, your school’s values should be completely unique. While many schools’ values tend to overlap, the important thing is that yours are rooted in who you are as a community. That way, when you build them into messaging, your words are more likely to resonate with your audiences.

Core values don’t just belong on the “who we are” page of your school’s website. Core values belong in every piece of communication, whether you explicitly state them or not. You can make the message very direct by simply stating your school’s values on banners, letterheads, postcards, brochures or even school merchandise. There are also more subtle ways to incorporate values into branded messaging. For example, a statement that addresses your school’s stance on bullying might say, “We encourage students to treat each other with kindness and respect.”

Slogan

Mission, vision and values are the foundation of every district. A slogan is another defining feature of your school’s identity, although you may or may not have one. Slogans are a great piece of branded language because they summarize your school’s mission, vision and values in a single tagline. With just a few words, you can effectively communicate what your school is all about, which is especially useful for messaging that’s targeted at prospective families or less involved community members.

To create a slogan, pick out key words from your mission, vision and values. For instance, one school’s values might include kindness and compassion, and their mission might be to nurture the minds of upcoming generations. The resulting slogan could be, “A kind community fostering compassionate minds.” After refining the language of your slogan, place it where people are likely to see it, such as letterheads, school entrances, social media graphics and the header or footer of your school’s website.

Mascot

The mascot is a great way to build your school’s brand. It’s a visual symbol that your audiences already associate with your school. While the mission, vision and values are abstract concepts, mascots are easy to visualize and just as easy to incorporate into branded materials. Plus, the image of your mascot can keep content consistent and help audiences identify that content a lot faster. The second they see that mascot, they’ll immediately know the message is from your school!

Branded messaging can go beyond simply putting the mascot’s image on a web page, newsletter or social media graphic. You can also incorporate language that references the mascot. For example, if your school’s mascot is the stallion, your marketing team could create a blog or social media post that includes the sentence, “Our students are leading the charge!” Think outside the box, and look for ways to incorporate your mascot into verbal and written mediums as well.

Colors

Messaging is often perceived as written or spoken content. However, messaging isn’t just the words being said, but the visuals that go along with those words. That’s where color schemes come into play. Your school’s colors are integral to branded messaging. School colors, along with fonts, graphics and mascot images, are visual cues that the content belongs to your school. They add another layer to branding and help your school stand out. Plus, color can make your content more visually appealing and increase engagement among audiences.

Aside from adding school colors to visual mediums, you can also reference the school colors in written forms of content. If a school’s colors are green and gold, the speaker might end a message by saying, “Let’s rep the green and gold today!” Language like this adds more flair and style to an otherwise straightforward message.

Hashtags

Hashtags play a critical role on social media, which has become an essential medium for communication. However, hashtags serve a greater function beyond helping audiences find your content online. They also help schools develop their brand identities. A hashtag is like putting your school’s signature on a piece of content.

Your school has many options for creating a unique, branded hashtag. You can reference the school’s colors or mascot, such as #RollRed or #BulldogPride. You could even incorporate your school’s mission or core values, boiling them down to a few words like #OneSchoolForAll or #CreateInnovateEducate. Focus on what makes your school one of a kind!

Go deeper with your school’s branding

Every school has a brand identity. More often than not, you can develop that brand identity even further. Take the ideas discussed here, and use them to make your school stand out. Details like mascots, colors, slogans and hashtags might seem small, but when combined together, they do wonders for fleshing out your school’s identity. All you have to do is bring these identifying features to the forefront of your communications.

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