A Tagline Is Neither the Devil Nor the Holy Grail

Branding Insight in Brief from EdwardsCo, Part 5

Some of our clients choose to use a tagline to highlight their brand positioning. Some do not. This is a cultural choice for each school.

The benefit of a good tagline is the simplicity and clarity it provides immediately. Many schools are uncomfortable with the tagline concept, however, and that’s OK, too.

Insights

The majority of our clients prefer no tagline.  The strength of their brand positioning and implementation with focused, persuasive messaging successfully moved the needle on awareness, interest, enrollment, and philanthropy.

Exeter and Simmons, for example, found that our approach to brand strategy development dramatically improved their ability to articulate their authentic and differentiating characteristics.  As a result, they decided to execute their new brand strategy without using a tagline as part of marketing and communications efforts.

Yet, some clients do decide to use a tagline as they implement their brand strategy. St. Paul’s School and Skidmore College are two examples of EdwardsCo clients that decided to encapsulate the brand positioning statement in a distinctive and effective tagline.

Case in Point – St. Paul’s School

Eager to find a way of broadening its base and performing even more favorably against competitors, St. Paul’s School asked EdwardsCo for help developing and implementing a communications strategy.

Many internal constituencies were skeptical about developing a tagline for St. Paul’s: “How can we reduce a place as complex and rich as St. Paul’s into a simple message?”

After going through the process of identifying a positioning for the school, however, these same internal constituencies recognized the benefit of having a powerful summary message that quickly captured the school’s spirit and key point of differentiation.  An effective and engaging tagline would help them achieve their goal of quickly breaking through the clutter and standing out in the hearts and minds of target families.

The tagline, “Freedom with Responsibility,” was widely embraced and served as the foundation for overall institutional strategy, planning, and development. After launching the new admissions materials created by EdwardsCo, St. Paul’s had two of its best admissions years in its history.

Case in Point – Skidmore College

Skidmore College also asked EdwardsCo for assistance developing a communications plan.  Although the college’s performance indicators were headed in the right direction, Skidmore believed it could move the needle even more if they had a singular message that could serve as the platform for all communications.

Our external research revealed that the market perceived Skidmore as an artsy school, soft on academics.  After digging into Skidmore’s culture and educational philosophies, our internal research uncovered the college’s strong belief that achieving excellence in any field – literature, chemistry, mathematics – required creativity to push the boundaries of conventional thinking.

After testing dozens of possibilities with prospective students, donors, and friends, EdwardsCo proposed a brand positioning with the tagline, “Creative Thought Matters.”

“Creative Thought Matters” became a rallying cry for the internal audience.  As part of the implementation process, EdwardsCo held message training workshops for faculty and staff, offering ways to integrate the idea into their interactions with students, alumni, and other influencers.

Skidmore’s president used “Creative Thought Matters” as a platform in speeches and other communications.  On their own initiative, students developed CTM stickers and placed them around campus.  Facebook posts revealed graduation caps decorated with “Creative Thought Matters.”

“Creative Thought Matters” also resonated with Skidmore’s key external audiences.  Within one year of implementation, the school saw an 8% increase in high-ability, no-need students and a 12% increase in year two.  The acceptance rate decreased from 48% to 42% in year one and to 35% in year two.

Any questions for us about branding at your school?

Get in touch with us if you would like to talk more about your enrollment challenges.

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