Why Schools Don’t Think of Themselves as Brands: and why they should

Organizations of all kinds are now recognizing the importance of their brand and its impact on key audiences. Brands are no longer just a logo or tagline – they are how an organization positions itself, communicates who it is, and differentiates itself from the competition. Brands are central to a company’s reputation, equity, and trust. The same can be said for schools.

Whether they like it or not, schools today have brands. Prospective students see them as brands when choosing where to apply, attend, and recommend friends to enrol as well as potential employers when deciding whether students from that school will be a good fit for their company. When recruiting, your school brand will be essential in attracting and retaining the right talent.

The question is why do so few schools think of themselves as brands?

Derwen College Rebrand

The Importance of a Good Brand

A strong brand gives an organization an edge. It can increase revenue and profits by helping the organization charge more for its products or services and increase sales by attracting more customers. A brand can also be a company’s greatest asset when facing a crisis. When crises happen, a strong brand can protect the company’s reputation. But a weak brand can quickly destroy value, even if the company is doing nothing wrong.

Why Schools Should Think of Themselves as Brands

Schools are just institutions that provide a service to society – educating students. The goal of all such institutions is to provide the best possible education to learners and to do so in a way that is efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable. A school’s brand is central to these goals. A strong brand can attract the right students and increase the applicant pool. It can provide them with the best educational experience. And it can provide the school with the funding to deliver the best education possible.

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3 Reasons Schools Don’t Think of Themselves as Brands

Schools may not think of themselves as brands because they are so focused on the inside. At their core, schools are institutions of teaching and learning. And, like most organizations, schools are directed internally. They are focused on their processes, procedures, people, and products. They are not directed externally toward customers, students, or potential students. That said, schools do engage in marketing activities. They may use brochures and websites to entice prospective students, use social media to engage current students, and host open houses and alumni events. But the branding message is usually quite weak. And the reason is that branding is an outward-facing strategy that requires attention to customers and their experiences. A school can only brand itself by looking out at the world, identifying what people think of when they think of the institution, and creating a consistent and compelling message that resonates with key audiences.


2 Reasons Schools Might Be Hesitant to Adopt the Branding Strategy

Schools may be hesitant to adopt a branding strategy because they are not sure what they want to be when they grow up. In other words, they are not sure what the core message of the institution is. This 

can be a real challenge for mature institutions that have a rich history and multiple specialities, each with its own unique culture. And branding can be a messy process. It can demand that the institution makes difficult decisions about which specialities to emphasize, how to balance the core values of various departments, and what the core mission of the school is.



Schools are brands, but many of them don’t recognize them. And that is unfortunate because a strong brand can help any institution – not just companies in the private sector. Schools can do so much more if they understand that they are brands with a story to tell. They can engage their existing audiences (students and alumni) and attract new ones (prospective students). And they can do much more to achieve their goals – whether they are better educating students or generating more revenue.

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