Do not Think You Need to Brand Your School? Think Again

Quick. Name India's most valued and trusted brand.

Since its inception in 1858, the Tata Group has established itself as India's most valuable brand across independent surveys by Interbrand and Brand Finance. It is virtually impossible to spend a day without being exposed to ads or messages from a Tata Group company. Be it Jaguar, Land Rover, Taj Hotels, Titan, Fastrack, Tanishq, Tata Sky or its many other brands, Tata is everywhere.

What's fascinating, however, is that when you think of the Tata Group, the first thing that comes to mind is hard its ads! Far from it. What comes to mind are its iconic leaders, its service to the nation and its focus on creating lasting customer value.

And That is what a great brand is all about – offering unique, sustained value, while being savvy enough to focus on growing its business.

Where do you stand?

For years, Indian schools have occupied one of two instances:
Confident of their heritage, and resultantly, not too eager to build their brand
Aggressive in publicizing themselves and expanding rapidly

Which stage is right?

Here's the good news. It's not about one stance vs. the other. It's about combining the two – one where you constantly enhance value to the student and communicate that value to the wider world. Because that's what a great brand is all about – unique value.

It's also what a brand is defined as – "a name, term, design, symbol or other feature that defines an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer."

So, if you're confident that you're adding great value to a student, communicate that value and let people know. Do not leave it to them to create their own perceptions! And if you're focused on growing your business, invest as much (or more) in creating student value as you do in branding your school.

Why branding matters more than ever

Because there are many more schools today: A couple of decades ago, each city had but a competent of schools. For a parent, decision-making was easy. Today, with incomes rising and parents willing to invest more on a good education, many more schools have sprung up (anywhere between 1.5 million and 2 million schools across India). Each school has its own loyal fans. These fans air their views on social media. The schools themselves advertise extensively. The end result – parents are more confused than ever. The best way to get noticed – communicating your unique value to parents.

Because parents have different priorities: Earlier, the only benchmark for a good school was academic results. Today, priorities vary – good environment, all-round development, global exposure, good teachers, child safety and others. By identifying and communicating your school's unique value, you appeal directly to parents who are looking for fairly what you have to offer. This helps attract more like-minded parents, create your desired culture more confidently and create strong word-of-mouth buzz.

Because today, transparency = credibility: At one time, being low-profile was seen as a positive attribute. Not anymore. In the age of social media, people tend to equate transparency with credibility ("If you're out there and communicating confidently, you must be good"). Today, parents expect their child's school to communicate with them regularly and in detail. Schools investing in strategic branding get talked about a lot more, receive more applications and can charge more. So, go out there and communicate your value confidently!

Because you want to be part of India's education boom: The period 2016-2025 is being touted as India's decade. With a young, upwardly-mobile, increasingly-urban population, the demand for good school education is only set to grow. So, if you're currently nurturing, say 3000 young minds, why not nurture several more? To enable any stable expansion, you need a steady pipeline of prospects (students in this case) – and that's where strategic brand-building comes in.

Because branding is just the swiss knife you need: Beyond admissions and business expansion, you have other needs – hiring the right talent, associating with social causes, communicating with investors. A robust brand can help achieve all these objectives by fine-tuning your message, and communicating with diverse stakeholders in the language they understand.

Go ahead. Think brand. And remember that a great brand – first and foremost – is about the brand experience. Make sure your fundamentals are in place, define your brand and invest in your school's future!