In short schools need strong branding and graphic design to enhance their culture, attract better teachers, attract better students, have a friendly environment but ultimately to bring better education through a better school experience.
However, many aspects of school branding are closely related to why businesses need a strong brand. So, in this article I will not only remind you why branding is so powerful, but also talk about how the school brand effects student behaviour, how it can change word of mouth and why schools can leverage this to a bigger degree compared to a business.
Obviously you want your school to perform well, but there is only so much you can do as one person so a lot of the rankings and reputation heavily rely on the staff and the student performance. It is the graduates and the parents that create a public opinion for you so it is important to keep in mind that they are the main audience. Word of mouth is how schools get their 'word' out and the majority gets spread through this audience.
With this comes branding. Branding is more than your visuals and messaging. It is the entire school experience.
With many other variables, all of this is what creates that gut feeling for someone who interacts with your school. This is the most crucial part of branding and whether it is for schools, businesses or other organisations, it is the gut feeling of the stakeholders that matters - no matter whether the objective is to get more clients in the door, or to accept better students.
Let's start with a story that will demonstrate my observation of student behaviour when exposed to improved school graphic design and branding which I will then support with academic research.
Towards the end of high school, I was involved with anything art and graphic design related as much as possible. Whether it was competitions, yearly magazine design, art classes or house marketing (like creating banners for my school house - the typical red, green, blue and yellow school 'factions'). At the time I was freelancing, but I did not let any learning opportunity pass by. And so, with that, I noticed how much the house art brought students together when it came to house competitions. I noticed a sense of pride in the students representing the house. I saw a spirit and a strong culture within these houses.
I noticed the same attitude from students when I created the yearly Logbook cover. Once I graduated, my logbook cover design rolled out for the next year. What surprised me was that I had younger students messaging me on Facebook thanking me for the design. They were letting me know that they are happy to have an original and creative cover as they were tired of the boring design from the previous year.
This made me realise that I created something the students can relate with and be proud of. They use their logbook every day, and now their school experience has been enhanced by that one extra bit.
The story above describes my observation, however, a study by Casidy (2013) discusses how perceived brand orientation impacts student satisfaction, loyalty, and post-enrolment communication behaviour. This journal article supports my observation.
Casidy says that her findings
"may guide the key decision makers in higher education institutions to understand the importance of brand orientation in their corporate strategy to enhance satisfaction, loyalty, and positive WOM, which can be used to differentiate themselves from other institutions in the highly competitive education market."
Reference detail at the end of the article
Just to clear things up, school branding allows you to compete for top students, but that does not mean that your school has to be prestigious. The beauty of branding is that you can create a different gut feeling than what is established by the status quo. This can be referred to as Brand Positioning, which you can find more about in this article.
So, as with any organisation with strong and defined branding, you will attract the right employees - AKA teachers. If you aim for your school to achieve success in the sciences and maths subjects, it all starts with branding, marketing and graphic design by communicating that point. This snowballs into the right student enrolment, and of course, this will attract the ideal teachers, that want to work for the school - not for the job. This snowball further, into passionate lessons that ignites passion in the students. And then again this snowballs further and the students are more successful.
As stated before, schools primarily get their name out there through word of mouth. Students and their parents have the biggest impact to this message-spreading. This means that with time, what has slowly snowballed into successful results with students and teachers, will naturally flow out of the school.
If the school operates social media channels on top of a website, the school successes and perception gets spread at an amplified rate. The school can go further and announce their student individual successes and even get the press involved.
First for the summary, I want to make something clear. This article might sound simple - "Oh, just get better graphic design and branding and everything will suddenly be successful", however, this is not the reality.
Only over a long period of time, in the right circumstances, branding can have a big impact on schools. It is not the graphic design that makes this difference. It is the experience and the gut feeling someone has about your school - graphic design is only a tool to achieve that.
With this, please also keep in mind that this is only one part of what makes a school a successful. There are many other variables that influence this, such as the location, history, already existing public perception and many more variables which I am not qualified to talk about.
However, what I offered in this article is a new way to get to the next level and out-do other schools in your city.
As with any business or organisations, brand strategy, marketing and graphic design is what drives them in the long term. Schools usually last for hundreds of years, they educate our children and the future generations. Supplying the best experience for the students will snowball into many things. Some of which are listed below.
Thanks for taking the time to read this :)
Casidy, R. (2013). The role of brand orientation in the higher education sector: a student-perceived paradigm. Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, 25(5), 803-820.