Monday, November 23, 2009

Branding Lessons: 5 Tips for MADman Principals to Improve School Identity through Emotional Branding

Years ago, the first time I went into the Disney store in NYC, I had tears in my eyes. Cutching my young daughter's hand, I knew she was excited. She was almost dancing with delight! But the emotion of every experience I'd had with Disney as a child welled up inside me. Inside I was dancing with delight. A lifetime of emotions for a brand. What a connection! Although research says that even the strongest brands connect at the powerful emotional level with about half of their customers, it's worth thinking about it as a Branding Lesson for MADman Principals. It's worth thinking about the subtle ways that your school's brand might benefit from genuine emotional connection to an audience. Would it benefit having the "dance of satisfactory customer service delight" about your school's services present in the subconscious minds of your community? Would you want more than half of your community to have the subliminal buzz that the school is beneficial to them? I'd say yes...and around budget time and referundum time, the answer would be a definite YES!

So a few Tips on BRANDING and Emotions. One of the best pieces on the subject is William Mc Ewan's the Power of Emotional Connection.

What he's learned from digging into consumer conversations can inform your next emotionally charged conversation with colleagues and staff about branding. These MADman principles come from business, but I see them with educators eyes. They absolutely relate to schools and the need to build an identity that offers an emotional connection, one that builds support for any direction the school takes to build a unique identity for student achievement:

1. Consumers' emotions aren't merely warm and squishy concepts suitable mainly for greeting cards and Hollywood movies. Emotional connections are powerful and profitable. Emotional bonds represent critical indicators of a wide variety of future positive outcomes related to achievement. Schools provide services and products. There's an impressive Return on Investment that results from emotionally engaging a community niche market - and there's a substantial cost, especially around voting, that results from disengaging them.

2. There's a crucial difference between a customer and an engaged customer. Getting schools to increase customers should never be an objective; building customer engagement should be. MADman principals can be accountable for building engagement. It's never a single factor; it's the total brand experience that determines the enduring health of a "brand marriage"in a school community. The "people" component is almost always the toughest to get right,but MADmen have the edge!

3. Every time a customer comes in contact with the school organization - with its products, stores/schools, people, visual tags, or with the stories that appear in blogs and in the newspaper - the brand relationship can be enhanced. Or it can be diminished. Brand marriages aren't static; they continue to evolve. And every change, whether up or down, has a consequence.

4. Brand relationship management isn't just a marketing challenge, nor is it a challenge that can be met solely through operational or technology enhancements. Successful brand connection management requires a passionate and empowered MADman principal , A brand champion, who leads a school-wide commitment and aligns efforts that extend across a school or district.

5. School consumers' emotions can be reliably and meaningfully measured, quantified and, more to the point, can be managed. Schools can enhance their customer connections.

As McEwen states..It's certainly not easy. But it's not really optional; it's imperative.

William J. McEwen is Global Practice Leader, Brand Managem

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