Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Branding. It’s a buzzword, and it’s everywhere. And it’s come to education.

In fact, branding begins long before the first day of school.

What used to be called “naming” is a human being's first experience with branding. It used to be simple. The newborn arrived and depending on the sex, mom and dad give a name so as to keep things from being messy when they bring the baby home to the other family members. But now a fetus is not just named, she can be branded in utero by anxious parents holding books of best baby names, long before her arrival. Shall they name her Apple? Isabella? Rain? Mary? No—nobody is Mary anymore. Get the difference? And wait, let’s send Apple’s sonogram out on her facebook fan page for our 5,000 friends to see. The world according to branding means going viral on sonogram screens, computer screens, and on everybody’s tongue.

So what is branding? Is it just about visibility on social networks?

Branding has been with us since the early 20th launch of the Morton Salt Girl or the Quaker Oats Man. But why does it suddenly seem so urgently important today? Important enough that dancing You Tube infants, kindergarteners, my space tweenagers, and White House party crashers have all personally branded themselves for millions to enjoy in this new communication age?

Branding is a serious topic. It’s about to take over education from the inside out, and it’s in need of definition and understanding. It needs an advocate in education. From where I sit in business today, branding has a place in the marketplace that can inform schools.

Two professional journeys, one in education and one in business, produces a guide for school leaders that opens up a necessary conversation about building winning school culture in new ways through a branding campaign.

My consulting perspective is informed by careers in education and business. I bring a different lens on marketing to business types and a different perspective on education to school leaders. When asked, I say..."I've really been in business all of my life, the business of sales”. I mean I've sold "education" in a diverse marketplaces across the country to students, teachers, parents, administrators, school board members, business people, politicians and the community. They’ve been my niche market. And both experiences have shaped my thinking. Lately, I’ve expanded that thinking to branding, but branding isn’t really sales. It’s deeper than that. Aligning school programs, initiatives, and standards can be approached through a branding conversation, beyond the superficial trappings of websites, logos and taglines. Talking about branding goes beyond making a pitch.

Worlds are converging around the topic of branding. George Costanza once decried colliding worlds on TV’s Seinfeld, but I see this collision as a boon, a powerful opportunity; the chance for a new winning idea to be spread that branding education could be good for school identity and student achievement. Thomas Freidman would applaud my view as an example of his “imagination mash-up”, a new bit of thinking for business and education. If worlds are converging, a new age is dawning, and it’s not Aqaurius-- It’s the age of Educational Branding.

So let the sunshine in and the branding conversation begin.

Understanding, developing, and living an educational brand is far from an empty exercise for school leaders and their modern connected communities. This book invites thinking about the value of branding in education. It’s written to inspire conversations in small meetings, over coffee in faculty rooms, in focus groups and in professional development venues. The branding conversation belongs in schools because it links to relationship building, trust and authenticity, the very values the educational community has advanced in curriculum and standards reform in the last decades.

So let’s talk about branding. And the good news is… the branding concept comes not from Washington DC policymakers, it comes from Madison Avenue Ad men…or Madmen, and they’ve always had their finger on the pulse of what the market wants.

If you are intriguiged by the buzz of MAD AVE principles for Branding, and their application to education, read on. At the very least ,it’s a good fit for your learning and professional development. I promise you’ll will grow new denrites as it expands your thinking about business and education. At its best, the Mad Ave ideas may help you initiate a discussion tthat will improve the culture of your school, the identity of your organization and the achievement of your students.

MAD Ave principles for school “principals”? Every Tom, Dick and Harry, Apple, Rain and Mary needs to learn them today.

And You'd be crazy not to.

No comments: