When it’s necessary for students to remember lists, attributes, or historical references related to the material they’re learning, teachers help them remember by using mnemonic devices. One of the most common is used when teaching the names of musical notes on a staff written in treble clef. From the bottom up, the notes on the lines (E – G – B – D – F) is supported by the phrase “Every Good Boy Does Fine” – at least that’s the way it was when I began to learn music…there might be something a little more gender-neutral today.

Marketing is also an exercise in education. Two important concepts within the jargon of marketing are “positioning” and “branding.” Although many books have been authored about these topics, here’s a very simplistic definition: “Positioning” refers to the space (or position) a product or service occupies within a person’s mind, and “branding” is the mnemonic device to help achieve that “learning objective” of remembering that product or service’s position. For example, while people may say, “I need a tissue,” many are also prone to say, “I need a Kleenex (R).” Kimberly-Clark, the makers of Kleenex (R) Brand Tissues, “owns” the “top of mind” position regarding facial tissue in the marketplace. I still haven’t heard anyone ask for the Scott Paper Company’s “brand” of tissues by saying, “I need a Scottie.” If someone did, they might be surprised by a small terrier licking their face.

The process of “branding” is much like the one carried out by ranchers who wanted to “mark” their herd of cattle. Ranchers used familiar and simple signs and names – like “Circle W” and “Bar M” – to represent their ranch “brand”. These symbols were easy to form in iron so that it could be heated and burned into their hide, indicated they were “owned” by the ranch.

Similarly, marketing’s goal is to “burn” an image into the minds of the people in the target market. In the case of Catholic, Christian, and other faith-based schools, the target market is “25 to 39-year-old females with young children.”

When you are determining your school’s “brand,” it becomes synonymous with your school. In other words, your school is your school’s brand. Therefore, a “brand” is much more than a logo.  The logo is the device that encapsulates your school’s brand.  Are you using a simple logo that, with enough exposure, can be instantly associated with your school? Or perhaps your school is known by a series of letters? Think of the “brands” that you’re familiar with, and the images that represent them to help you remember them. Target Stores use a red and white “bullseye” design. You don’t have to even see the name, as Target’s goal is for their target market (their customers and potential customers) to associate their store name with a simple graphic representation. While Target Stores use a “target,” The now “out-of-business” Kmart used a large “K” – which actually stands for “Kresge,” since the SS Kresge Company was the predecessor of Kmart. Also, Kmart is much easier to remember (and spell) than “Kresgemart” would be.

If your school has historically used a coat of arms as its logo that has four quadrants, with the right and left side representing different aspects of its founders or their family history, that’s great…for an exercise in heraldry, but not necessarily for branding. Indeed, there should be symbolism behind the logo, but that’s not important to your “target market” when you are marketing. Your goal is for your “brand” to be instantly recognizable. When your target market sees that brand, they think, “your school,” and vice versa.

Simply put, when a member of the target market sees your school’s logo, they should think, “That’s (your) School;” if they think, “I wonder what all those things in the logo mean,” you have failed to achieve the learning objective of determining your brand.

If you don’t develop your brand, or don’t have a brand, you become a commodity. When dealing with commodities, the focus always shifts to price, and the lowest price wins. If I would say that you could HAVE (not pay for) your choice of an $18,000 car or a $40,000 car, which would you pick? That’s a pretty easy one. That would be a Honda Civic vs. an entry level Tesla. Notice the importance branding plays there too.

But if I said you could have your choice between a $22,000 car and $26,000 car, which would you pick? If you said the $26,000 car, you’d have chosen the top of the line Honda Civic. If you’d have picked the $22,000 car, you’d have chosen a 5 speed entry-level Mini Cooper. Some people would be disappointed to receive the more expensive vehicle. To some people, a car is a car, and they don’t care what kind it is, since anything may be better than what they’re driving now.  Therefore, price is not necessarily indicative of a more desirable brand.

It bears repeating  – when a consumer can see no perceived difference between choices, the product or service is considered to be a commodity, and lowest price wins. Remember, though, that what draws parents to your school is what makes it a remarkable place to be. That must be reflected in your brand. Make the experience of your school an emotionally compelling one, and not simply the best logical choice, and your branding efforts will be successful.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2006-2021 (Original Publication Date: 20060821)