Branding for the education sector is no less important than it is for a start-up or corporate business.
Why? Because education establishments need to showcase their values and ethos too.
In today’s world, you can no longer rely on that long standing heritage or those grade averages, you need to be outshining your competitors. As the market becomes more and more competitive, a prospectus that looks the same as everyone else’s and those vague values written across the top of your website just won’t cut it. You need to show your own personality.
Students (and parents) are consumers, and savvy ones at that. They no longer just go to the top level universities for their chosen subject, or the local college just around the corner. With a plethora of choices, they will choose one which aligns with them the best.
Think of the investment. When going to university, students are spending the equivalent of a house deposit or a luxury car in return for an education. Are you going to give them what you’re promising? It’s a big decision for an 18 year old to make. They need to know why they should hand over their money, and time, to you.
Your brand is important because the competition between education establishments is rife, especially among universities. While you might offer slightly different courses from another university, the only real differences are your values and what you’re promising. If you think about it, there’s a reason why you might warm to Apple more than Samsung or choose Adidas over Nike…you can apply the same to the education sector.
Your brand is what sets you apart from everyone else. And we don’t just mean your logo. Whilst that’s important as it’s the first thing people will see, it’s also about your values and your story. It is what makes you different from the rest, it’s your unique selling point.
Storytelling is an essential part of branding. People buy into stories, not corporate stuffy slogans. So figure out your story and tell it. Whether you’ve been around for decades and seen Stephen Hawking attend your university like Cambridge, or you are a brand new establishment with the latest technology trying to inspire a new generation, there’s always a story worth telling. Not only are we wired to love and respond to stories, but it will enable that emotional connection. It’s well known that people will gravitate towards brands that feel more human, it’s only natural.
Storytelling will not only increase your brand favourability in your audience’s eyes, it can also be up to 22 times more memorable than facts. 
After taking one look at your brand, people will immediately form a judgement. They will either connect to it or not. So, it’s really important to showcase your establishment correctly, truthfully, and ultimately, stand out among the competition.
Over the years, we’ve worked with many schools, colleges and universities:
You’ve identified your core messaging and got your brand guidelines, so the next step is making sure it’s consistent across all your touchpoints, both on and offline.
90% of users expect to have the same branding across all platforms/channels. 
A potential student will probably land on your website to check out who you are, so it’s key to get your branding right. We’re not talking about the logo that typically sits in the top left hand corner, we’re talking about the imagery, tone of voice throughout and user experience…and so on.
There is going to be a fine line between navigation and design, but both are equally important. It needs to tell that compelling story, be educational and have that lasting impression.
90% of people have left a website because it was badly designed. 
Not only is the website look and feel important, but we also understand how important it is to integrate with your back end systems around courses. Your website needs to be multifunctional, not just look the part. It needs to be useful for your students, potential students and staff members.
We worked with City College Plymouth on their new website, and the new layout dramatically improved the user experience. It went on to win a coveted Gold Award from the College Marketing Network’s FE First Awards. Read more here.
The next obvious thing to think about would be marketing, and more specifically social media. Is it really necessary? The short answer is yes. It’s like one of the planets in the solar system, maybe The Earth…quite important to humankind.
In 2014, more than 68% of college students reported that social media conversations influenced their enrollment decision. 
From just that statistic alone, you can see why social media for your organisation is vital. But be sure to keep it all on brand and consistent.
Students and the younger generations basically live on social media (that maybe a slight exaggeration), so what better way to get in front of them and communicate why they should come to your establishment.
People buy from people. Think about it this way, there is a community of people out there who have experienced your college or university, so tap into it. They are essentially your brand representatives.
Plus, you can get creative. Your website will most likely be a little more formal, but you can be a bit more casual on social media (if your brand guidelines allow it of course). Let people delve behind the scenes (because we’re all a bit nosey), from video to live streaming, there’s a lot of ways to get your story seen and heard. However you do it, you can really give people an insight into your establishment, the people behind it and the people who attend.
Example: The Deaf Academy
The Deaf Academy, a bilingual day and residential school and college for 5-25 year olds, teaching in English and British Sign Language, came to us in April to help them promote their first ever fundraising run on social media in aid of the New Deaf Academy Appeal. The overall goal was to raise awareness and money for the cause. We implemented a mini 3 month campaign, which included a campaign video:
The results were great, and included over £6.5K in donations and 200 ticket sales.
At the end of the day, most education establishments are a business. People exchange their money for a service, for an education. More students means more money, so you can see why it’s important to market yourself. It’s like setting up a business and not telling anyone about it…
As you know, consistency is key. Through your own voice and imagery you can easily communicate your values, your culture and give them a real insight to who you are. Your organisation is unique. It’s not the same as any other. Harness your difference and make sure you’re communicating it the best you can.
We’ve worked with a variety of education establishments so we truly understand the difference it can make. Learn a lesson or two about your school, college or university with our Free Brand Health Check.
Jana Smidkova – Director of Marketing, Communications and Customer Services – City of Bristol College“Thank you and the team at Bluestone for your support over the last year in defining, designing and developing our new website. The feedback we’ve had so far has been very positive with people commenting on its easy navigation and vibrant colours, as well as its compatibility with mobile browsers.
We’re delighted with how the project turned out. Now that we have a nice new flash website, we want to make sure that it’s developed in line with customer expectations and latest trends.”
Samantha Smith – Digital Marketing Officer – City College Plymouth“The bespoke website reporting tool that Bluestone360 put together for the college has been invaluable. It allows us to keep track of huge amounts of data and make sure our customers have the best possible experience when visiting our website.”
Samantha Starkey – Plymouth University – SWEEP Project“Great team to work collaboratively with. I appreciate the ongoing support they provide.”
David Bradford – Head Teacher – Elburton Primary School“The School’s branding process was very useful in helping us
identify the aspects of Elburton school which were very valued
and shared by all the school community. It was a very useful in
trying to put the ethos of the school into words and define
what is special and unique about Elburton. Since receiving the
DNA of the school we have used it in many ways, from revising
the aims of the school to producing a new prospectus. We have
clear aims for the school which we know are shared by all. I see
it being used in the future as part of our development planning
and self-evaluative process. The work with Bluestone has been
one of the corner stones of this.”
Paul Taylor – Business Manager – Liskeard School“I have had several schools and colleges feedback their
compliments on both the quality and eye catching uniqueness
of our prospectus. Our Governing Body were unanimous in
their praise and delight in the high caliber of the product.”
You can call us on 01752 700777. Just ask for Steve or Steve*
*Steve Watson is our Creative Director and Steve Kyffin is our Managing Director.