Why Private School Branding is a Waste of Time

Contrary to popular opinion among most school leaders, private school branding is a total waste of time and money. Here’s my proof.

Video Transcript:

Jono Landon:                00:00                Hey, folks, this is Jono Landon. I am the CEO and Founder of Hubbli. We are the world’s only completely hands-free enrollment marketing solution designed specifically for private schools just like yours. I’m going to talk about something right now that is going to potentially shock some people, or at least confuse some people initially. Contrary to what seems to be a really popular opinion amongst school leaders is that branding does not help you get students. I’ll repeat that. Branding doesn’t help you get new students. The type of marketing you should be investing time and resources into is called lead-generation marketing, so I’m just going to unpack that a little bit.

Jono Landon:                00:49                You may be wondering like, “What’s the difference between branding and lead generation?” I want you to know that it’s not very subtle. It’s actually quite enormous. When you get into marketing, the way you… Branding activities and lead generation activities are very different. You might use the same platform, but if your goal is branding as opposed to lead generation, you’re going to use the platform, like say Facebook or Google, in very, very different ways.

Jono Landon:                01:19                Now, as a general rule, any business that exists needs to choose their marketing strategy by aligning it with how their customers make purchasing decisions, and this is true whether you are a huge brand like Coca-Cola or a shoe store or a local brick and mortar small private school. Let’s take a look at how Coca-Cola customers make a purchasing decision. If you think about it, Coca-Cola is hands down the biggest, most recognizable brand in the world. Could you imagine ever forgetting that Coca-Cola exists? That would be… it’s pretty hard to imagine, but their marketing budget is hundreds of millions of dollars every year and they spend that on pretty much nothing but branding activities.

Jono Landon:                02:17                Why did they do that? If no one is going to forget about Coca-Cola, why do they have to spend so much money on branding so that people remember who they are? It doesn’t seem to make sense, but when their customer… If you think about how their customer makes a buying decision, it’s a very small, inconsequential decision. They’re probably standing in a store in front of a wall of like 50 different beverages and Coca-Cola wants them to spot their red logo amongst all the other 50 logos and have some type of feeling about their product, so that Coca-Cola will interrupt you basically all day long with ads that connect their brand, their logo with their product to cute, animated polar bears or Santa Claus and trying to get you to feel things and connect their logo to things outside of their product. Things that make you sort of more likely to spend that $1.25 on their drink rather than a Pepsi or a bottle of water.

Jono Landon:                03:29                As far as purchasing decisions go, this is fairly inconsequential. Somebody might spend a dollar here, spend a dollar there, they might even buy a few Cokes a day. Hopefully not too many, but let’s contrast that, how somebody buys a Coke and how big of a decision or small of a decision that is with how your customers, meaning parents, make their decisions to enroll their child in your school. Very, very different experience. Almost a completely… as far as purchasing decisions go, buying a Coke or enrolling a child in a private school, you couldn’t be at more opposite ends of the spectrum. Your customers are making one of the biggest decisions of their entire lives. It’s up there with, “Who am I going to marry? Where am I going to live? What am I going to do for a career? What school am I going to enroll my children into?”

Jono Landon:                04:32                As we all know, for parents to decide if they’re going to send their children to your school, they have to go through many steps to make that decision. They have to contact you, they have to schedule a tour, make room in their calendar, they have to remember to show up. Maybe they have to take a day off work, get someone to cover for them, get someone to babysit one of the other kids, whatever it is, but they’re willing to do all this work because this is a huge decision which is very important, has very large implications on the future of their children. They have to decide if they’re going to pay you thousands of dollars and allow you to play a very influential role in their lives and in their family.

Jono Landon:                05:17                You have to ask yourself something. The last time a parent came into your school for a tour when they had that sort of recognition, that natural fit, they came in they had a full-body experience and their emotions were at play, they saw it, they heard the sounds. They were touching things, they could even smell it, and they fell in love with your school and they had that recognition that, “This is the perfect place to set my child up for success. This is what I want for my kids.” This is the experience that school leaders tell me they see happening right in front of them oftentimes when the right kind of parents, a parent that fits their school comes in for a tour.

Jono Landon:                06:02                I can tell you from my own experience when I went to my kids’ school, that’s what it was like for me. It was very emotional, very moving. I saw children sitting down at work, focused, and I could picture my kids sitting there just like that, and it was very moving. I literally had tears in my eyes thinking about setting my kids up, giving them the best I could possibly give my kids. Let me ask you something. When parents go through all that effort and they come in for a tour and they go through all of that labor and they have that experience, that deep recognition of finding the best fit for their kids, do you think it really mattered to them what your logo looked like? Do you think it really mattered to them what color palette you chose for your website? Does it even matter what the name of your school is, honestly? It really doesn’t because none of those things are why they enrolled their kids in your school. That’s not why they made that decision.

Jono Landon:                07:07                It’s not like buying a Coke when you’re just kind of interrupted all day and you’re just like, “Okay, I’ll buy a Coke instead of a Pepsi.” Or you get a Coke instead of a bottle of water. It’s not that kind of decision. This is huge, major implications. The only concern you should really give your branding is that it doesn’t offend people. It just has to look… it just has to not turn people off, and that’s a pretty low bar. I promise you, I see… I look at school websites all day long and there’s plenty of schools that are full and they have a nice healthy waiting list, and their logo and their website is not, I promise you, not very appealing. Let’s put it that way. Maybe it was 20 years ago, but it’s just like it probably never was even 20 years ago. It’s just not something that really has an impact because the thing that really keeps your school full more than anything is going to be that word of mouth from parents or what have you.

Jono Landon:                08:10                Even people that don’t come from a word of mouth referral that comes into your school, it’s not your logo or the color scheme on your site that’s going to get them to book a tour. It’s going to be that you’re sharing… you’re communicating the values that they’re looking for and making it really clear to them how to book a tour and come in and giving them an incentive to come in and go through that labor and have a tour with you and give them that incentive to compare you to other schools in the area. Again, because remember, if somebody is coming from a word of mouth referral, you don’t need to spend money marketing to those people. You need to market to the growing demographic of young moms between the age of 25 to 44 who are college-educated and professional and have the ability to invest and have the interest in investing in a higher-quality education, one that offers a more individualized learning experience and something that’s more focused on character development.

Jono Landon:                09:20                These are the things that more and more moms today are looking for, so your marketing has to bring in the people looking for those values and that doesn’t happen by a logo. Nobody can get that from a logo. Nobody can get that from a color scheme. That happens because you have a good ad that communicates the values, like, “Hey, do you want your child to develop a love of learning?” That’s something that grabs a parent, and I promise you, that one works. You can use that in your own ads because I promise you it works really well. You want your advertising to talk about the results and share the values of your school so that that speaks to the parents and says, “Oh, they’ll click on that ad.”

Jono Landon:                10:11                If that ad takes them to a web page that gives them enough information that makes them even more interested but also incentivizes them to book a tour so they can have the experience where they can actually have that full-body awareness of what your school really is, which they can only really get from being in your school with their full body and their full attention, that is called lead generation marketing and that is what you should do. Don’t worry about branding and don’t let people sell you on a website update or a logo. That stuff is totally inconsequential as long as, again, you just have to make sure your logo isn’t offending people.

Jono Landon:                10:57                Listen, those are my thoughts. That’s what we see works with our clients, but I’m really interested. Does that resonate with you? Please, ask any questions in the comments below and tell me if you agree with me or if you don’t agree with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts. This about conversation. Aside from that, have a wonderful year. Happy touring and enrolling, and let us know what you think. Have a good one.