This Marketing Matter could have had several song titles – “Who Are You?”  “Try To Remember” “What’s Your Name?” – but I decided on this line from the song “Fame” since sometimes it’s easy to forget your own name.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  But every now and then I see correspondence from schools that have no mention of the school’s name.  Perhaps we’re so used to posting everything on our Web sites that we forget some of the basics of direct mail.  My favorite piece like this did have the name of the school, but the mailing’s intent was to promote an event.  The last line of the copy said, “Call us for more information!”  But there was no phone number and no email address specified.

As basic as this may sound, forgetting important identifying information can be common. We’re so familiar with what we’re doing and who we are that we forget there are others out there who don’t know about us!!  Radio stations announcers are told to always say the call letters during breaks so that people know what station they’re listening to! Not only do they repeat and sing their call letters, they have slogans that are constantly repeated (“Your 10 in a row station,” “We play anything,” “The greatest hits of the 60’s and 70’s,” etc.).  All media does it.

And all commercials do it – over and over again.  Companies are known by who they say (or even sing) they are.  I’ll bet you can sing the jingle from Farmers Insurance or Liberty Mutual Insurance.  But note how the “jingle” says nothing about their brand.  Their brand isn’t determined by what the company says they are, but by the experience their customers have and share.  In the case of Farmers, it’s “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”  And as for Liberty Mutual, customers “Only pay for what you need.”

As for positioning, only one entity can hold one position in one’s mind.  In other words, there can’t be two entities who are “the best;”  there can’t be two entities who are “the fastest growing company” in a particular market vertical, and there can’t be two entities who are “the market leader” when it comes to…well, anything!   Want to know your school’s position?  Ask your current parent community just one question.  Note that it’s the same question that Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?”   That particular discourse is actually a great example of branding and positioning.  When Jesus asks, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  the disciples share what the community says based on their experience of Jesus.  Similarly, your school’s brand is determined by the community’s “experience” of the school.  They might be exposed to the marketing messages the school communicates through its Website, billboards, advertisements, sponsorships and events, and then form an image of the school in the collective mindset of the market, which is then shared with the members of the community.  It answers the question of “how” your school is perceived.  Positioning, in turn, answers the questions of “where” the brand is held in their mind.

Your school is not only known by its name,  but by its “branding” and “positioning.”  If your target audience can remember your name, your brand, and your position, you’re winning the struggle for their mind…and that’s of paramount importance for parents of current and prospective students, as well as donors and potential donors.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2020 (Original Publication Date – 20100125)