Independent School branding: why it must be led by brand purpose


Independent School Branding Why It Must Be Led By Brand Purpose

Some of the biggest brands that exist so vividly in our minds, do so because they realised the need to communicate their beliefs and purpose, rather than just the features and benefits of their products.

Dove launched their ‘campaign for real beauty’ in the early 2000’s, where they paraded six ‘curvy, real women’ across our TV screens.

Powerfully expressing their purpose “to educate and inspire girls on a wider definition of beauty and to make them feel more confident about themselves”, Dove succeeded in building a connection with their audience way deeper and more meaningful than competitors flaunting their latest formula or scent.

Apple (‘Think Different’), Nike (‘Just Do It’), The Body Shop (‘Forever Against Animal Testing’): many of the most successful brands of the last 20 years have succeeded because people buy into a belief or culture, feel connected to the brand, and then purchase their products.

The last two decades have seen consumers become more socially and morally aware of the impact their choices make.

Think of the recent Iceland palm oil campaign, high street sweatshop scandals, and the carrier bag revolution (who would have thought that asking for a carrier bag would come with such social stigma?). Higher expectations have impacted the culture in which we buy and engage with brands.

On top of this, and contrary to what we might tell ourselves, research shows that purchasing decisions are largely based on how we ‘feel’, over the facts that we actually know (we think we’re making rational decisions, but the reality is quite different) – interested? Read ‘Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions’ by Dr Dan Ariely.

A strong brand purpose enables you to connect with your audience on an emotional level, leaving them with a ‘good feeling’ that you have shared values.

We would argue that this is more important for independent schools than most sectors. Parents are making life-changing choices for their children – surely these decisions should be driven by deeper reasons than which school has the biggest Astroturf or the shiniest science labs? And why wouldn’t you choose a school based on shared values?

Getting to a meaningful brand purpose for your school will not be easy, but is worth the effort. A good brand strategy flows from a solid purpose, giving all of your marketing and communications more direction and, well, ‘purpose’.