All market sectors have their own clichés when it comes to advertising and marketing and school marketing in the independent sector is no exception.
There has been a tendency to rely on convention and certainty – with well-scrubbed, laughing children running through the early morning sunshine. Perhaps that’s not surprising as it’s the children who are the raison d’etre for any school and, after all, happy faces are what we all want to see.
However, there is only one outcome from blindly following such a cliché-ridden and predictable marketing approach. The advertising invariably becomes just a gesture – wallpaper, if you like. One school is indistinguishable from another and there is little if any “brand” differentiation to entice, excite or inspire parents and prospective pupils.
No two schools are the same. Every school has its own strengths, its own character….and its own identity. Such qualities may be immediately obvious for pupils, staff and visiting parents, but it’s a very different story for anyone who is less familiar with the school.
” Every school has its own strengths, its own character….and its own identity.”
The school marketing challenge, therefore, is to capture and convey those qualities that embody the ethos and distinctive character of a school in a way that will strike an immediate chord with a remote target audience. In other words, to raise brand familiarity and awareness by highlighting the school’s educational philosophy and its vision for pupils and for the school itself.
That’s precisely what we set out to achieve with the new marketing campaign here at Bryanston School in Dorset. This is a school that encourages self-discipline, creative thinking, independent thought, and a pioneering spirit. Just as important, it’s a school that leaves space for individual spirit and self-expression. Each pupil has the scope to learn to love their mind, to like what they do and to find their own way to learn with the continuous support of a rigorous tutor system.
“Authenticity is vital because a brand is a promise; a commitment to deliver.”
We wanted to capture this distinctive approach and “brand” personality in our new campaign. The authenticity is vital because a brand is a promise; a commitment to deliver. Not with lots of worthy words, but with an immediacy befitting the digital age and in a way that is truly an extension of life at the school. It’s fair to say that it wasn’t an easy task. And, of course, we wanted the campaign to stand out within a busy and competitive landscape of wallpaper.
We (the school marketing team) knew we needed to develop our ideas with individuals who could relate to the challenge – both within the school’s senior management team as well as experienced external practitioners. After some deliberations and exploratory discussions, we joined forces with Paul Kitcatt, an award-winning creative consultant and writer.
Working hand in glove with Paul, we were able to refine our ideas and he articulated the school’s vision as a promise to pupils, parents, staff and alumni. It was this promise that inspired the creative concept for the Imagine campaign which we have now launched.
“We wanted an image that would literally speak a thousand words.”
To bring the concept to life, it soon became clear that we would require the talent of a photographer with a reputation for producing dramatic and inspiring landscape photography. We wanted an image that would literally speak a thousand words. We commissioned David Boni, an internationally acclaimed advertising photographer with an outstanding portfolio of landscape work. It really was a meeting of minds, with Paul and David both demonstrating a deep and heartfelt connection with the school’s personality and philosophy.
The photoshoot took place at Bryanston on the hottest day of the year. David sprang into action and created a photograph that distils the essence of Bryanston and is truly a piece of art. Laughing young faces are nowhere to be seen. Instead, the shot was set up using props and chairs from various departments at the school, including some highly accomplished designs from former pupils who have gone on to great fame in their chosen creative fields, such as acclaimed designer Jasper Morrison.
For any parent, their child is dearer to them than life itself, with countless dreams and possibilities that are yet to be discovered and fulfilled. Our new campaign prompts curiosity and puts that child here at Bryanston, in the seat that’s right for them. It shows that everything they imagine and hope for is within reach – a message that we believe will resonate with any parent.
We’re absolutely delighted with the image produced by David which is now at the heart of the first phase of our brand building programme that includes selective ad placements in both print and online media. Feedback on the school marketing campaign from parents attending the recent Independent Schools Show at Battersea Park has been exceptional. We are now building on the success of the “IMAGINE” concept with a series of exciting initiatives within the school itself as well as in follow-up brand building activities.
In every way, the campaign shows how much there is to be gained from building on the core strengths of a school …… and by not being afraid to break the mould.