For at least the past decade, Web site authorities have said that your Web site must capture your viewer’s attention in 5 seconds or less.  There’s two interesting corollaries that have resulted:

– The attention span of the average person is now no more than 9 SECONDS in length.  Remember when it use to be about 45 minutes…then 22 minutes…then 6 minutes.  Then we wonder why diagnoses such as Attention Deficit Disorder are now prevalent.  Could it be that it’s just a part of our technology-rich culture?

– If it takes the viewer more than 5 seconds for your Web page to load, they’re gone, and checking out something else.  Therefore, if you’re thinking that your computer is slow when you log on to your school’s Web site, it just may be the fact that you have too many “data large” photos on it.  Larger files make for clearer pictures, but that’s only necessary if you’re making printed materials, such as posters of images.  For a computer, the smaller the file size (choose a .gif rather than a .jpg), the faster it loads.

If you need a visual example, consider television production.  A steady camera focused on a person giving a lecture for 60 minutes is an invitation to tune out.  However, a moving camera, a cut to a different angle, or an inserted “flashback sequence” are all “movement” points, and serve to recapture the viewer’s interest.  The next time you’re watching your favorite show, analyze it rather than watch it.  Every time there’s a camera cut or a scene change, say “change,” and then have a friend track the number of times you say “change.”  Time it for 7 minutes (which is usually the length of a segment before the first commercial break in a half-hour sitcom.  That’s 420 seconds.  If there are less than 47 “change” points, I’d be very surprised.  As for those close-ups that have a constantly moving camera, count those as a change every second.  Even a zoom in or zoom out counts as a “change.”

Now let’s go back to your Web site…how often is that photo at the top of the page changing?

Continuing the analogy to fishing that we’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks (after all, you are associated with a “school,” right?), your school’s slogan might be considered the “bait” for your CREATIVE hook. It’s that memorable message that says what your school is in seven words or less.

McDonald’s seems to be one company that comes up with very memorable slogans:

  • Look for the Golden Arches
  • McDonald’s is your kind of place
  • You deserve a break today
  • We do it all for you
  • “Two all beef…(you get the idea)
  • Food, folks and fun
  • I’m lovin’ it

And notice they do change over time – whether or not the mission and/or vision changes. Yes, your school’s mission might change. It all depends on what your vision for your school is. If your vision remains constant, your mission may change; if the vision changes, your mission may change. If your mission remains constant, then your vision may have to change. Those are topics, however, that you can find elsewhere within these Marketing Matters. Slogans will always change – just because you need to change your bait to keep it fresh.  If you’ve ever done some fishing, you know what happens when bait gets old.

There are important differences among a “hook,” a tag line and a slogan. A hook is what grabs your attention right off the bat; a tag line is the summative statement you want people to remember after you’ve captured their attention and they’ve stayed with what followed. It’s the tag line that reinforces the image of your school after a message has been presented.

In music, a “tag” is what happens at the end of a song.  It’s a little something extra to make it more memorable.  Even Shakespeare had tag lines.  Those were the “couplets” at the end of his sonnets.

A slogan, however, can stand on its own. A slogan might make a good tag line (to reinforce a message), but a tag line may not be a good slogan (since it may simply summarize what was presented, and not reinforce the overall message of your school).

Can you distill your school’s mission and vision into seven words or less? Sometimes it’s OK to have more than seven, but seven is usually the magic maximum. Most organizations can’t – which is why they bring in professional assistance to help with such things. It’s also something that you might think you don’t have time for at your school, since there are parent meetings, board meetings, pastoral meetings, and special event meetings, not mention all the things that go into what you’re supposed to be doing during the day – planning for the success of the school…and taking care of all those things that pop up during the course of the day. This is also why professional assistance is brought in. Sometimes the “operational” side of things is so stretched that there’s not enough time nor energy for the “capital” things that have to occur. You might also think it’s wasteful to spend time, talent and treasure on something as superficial as a slogan when there are “real” needs for the school – like technology, texts and teacher salaries.

But if you want kids in your school, you must make some kind of time for it.  Today’s customers (and those are the parents of your school community) demand it.

The slogan you develop also must be made known. It must appear on flyers, forms, announcements, the Web site – ANYTHING that comes from the school. It reminds me of a school that had achievement scored that were not only above the national norms, but surpassed every other school in their area of influence. Can you guess where those results were published?  That’s right – in a file cabinet, because the administration believed that to make a big deal about those scores would be boastful, and the school taught humility as one of its values. It walked its talk – to the point that it now no longer exists. Perhaps they could have kept their scores a secret, yet had a powerful slogan that alluded to their students’ achievements – something like, “Academic excellence on a foundation of faith.”

Such exposure means that the slogan must be a good slogan. If a school develops an effective slogan as a combination of the market’s experience of the school and the vision its leaders have for it, and then doesn’t use it, it creates the same problem as a school that comes up with a poor slogan that’s incongruent with the market’s experience of the school and makes widespread use of it.

Here’s why – your school’s slogan becomes associated with your school’s “brand.”  While in the past you and your staff may have spent countless hours developing your school’s brand, today, much of the work is already done for you since your school’s brand is determined by your customers.  When you hear the words, “I’m lovin’ it” today, the image of McDonald’s comes to mind. In fact, when you hear ANY of those slogans listed above, the image of McDonald’s comes to mind. The converse is also true.  When you hear the word “McDonalds,” more than likely, the five musical notes that precede the “I’m lovin’ it” line pops into your head.  The more slogans, the more images in people’s minds, which continuously reinforces the brand. If you don’t put the time and the effort into an effective slogan, the community will only come to know your school by hearing the name of your school, but then not be able to associate that name with any words that evoke an emotion to reinforce your school’s brand. A quick example:

“St. Joseph High School” – now, if that’s all you hear, what does that tell you about the school? It’s a high school under the patronage of St. Joseph. Maybe it’s associated with St. Joseph Parish, but maybe there are other schools that have merged to create this school. Maybe they teach classes in carpentry – but if it’s a Catholic High School, Woodshop may not necessarily a class option. Notice all the “maybes” there, too.

Now, let’s try this…

“Service, Justice, Honor, Scholarship – St. Joseph High School” – You’ve just linked four words that evoke imagery and create an emotional response to your school’s name. You’ve further solidified the brand by liking those aspects of the school with letters that are associated with the letters in St. Joseph High School. This way, any time anyone hears “St. Joseph High School,” they think “Service, Justice, Honor, Scholarship,” and vice-versa. Moreover, seeing the letters “SJHS” associates both the school AND the four attributes.

Branding is akin to what ranchers did to cattle.  The image of the school is burned into the minds of the members of the marketplace, and repetitive exposure deepens the brand.  That’s why your customer’s experience is even more impactful than what you think your school’s brand should be when determining a school’s brand.  The brand must come forth from the experience of the school, and the slogans developed reinforce your school’s brand. How important is it to know your school’s brand, and have it supported by the community? If you don’t have a brand, you become a commodity, and if you’re a commodity, low price wins….and that’s not the best of scenarios for tuition-charging institutions.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2009-2019 (Original Publication Date: 20090921)