Let the students speak: How schools can crowd source their brand

Academic brands: Stuck in Sloganville

Academic brand messages usually take one of a few approaches.

One is a recitation of institutional values – “Courage. Honor. Confidence. Conviction. Integrity.” Sometimes they’re accompanied by a motto that’s marinated in Latin.

Snore.

The other method is to concoct a single slogan, either rooted in research, or cooked up by an agency, or both.

Again, snore.

Waking up to a new way of looking at academic branding

We believe – based on working with a lot of clients in education  – that institutional brandmessages need to yield to the voices of the people who own the brand: The students.

It’s not new thinking but it’s the right thinking. The students are the strongest spokespersons.

Why? Because they have authenticity.

This is the quality so many brands seek to capture, but too often they insist on fabricating it through slogans rather than unlocking it from within.

How to leverage the branding power of students

Feature them in video. Use student interviews as the basis of any video-based marketing initiative. DO NOT use a voiceover, as tempting as that may be. Students (and often parents) learn about schools primarily through video, and they know marketing content when they see it. So avoid pitching with a VO.

Open social channels and keep them open. Students have mixed reactions to engaging with their school via social media. In high school, they’re not inclined to engage with their school because it’s viewed as an authoritarian presence. In college, it’s different. Our advice: Be selective and choose the SM outlets where your targets congregate. Tumblr may be better for teenagers, Facebook for parents, and LinkedIn for alumni.

Let them author content. It takes some nerve to hand over the reins of marketing to students, no doubt. But the right student blogger, for example, can make a difference. So can student-produced video. Just make sure you’re choosing the ones who have the skills and will tell a good story.

If your school’s brand is still in Sloganville, contact us for a conversation.