Grow Your Program
Branding Basics to Help You Attract Your Ideal Learner
What do the Nike Swoosh logo, a Tiffany Blue Box® wrapped in white ribbon, and the Intel audio chime all have in common? They’re all examples of branding. Each one serves as a unique identifier that customers can recognize and identify with. Even without the marketing budget of these globally recognizable brands, your education program can still implement brand basics.
Branding is important because it distinguishes your organization or education program as unique, special, and worthy of attention. Consistently repeating brand elements creates a lasting impression in the minds of your students and helps to build trust and loyalty. We’ll introduce you to some branding basics so you can start to develop a branding strategy that capitalizes on your program’s uniqueness.
5 Branding Basics to Build On
A brand is the name, logo, tagline, voice, and other distinctive features that a company or organization uses to define and differentiate itself or its products. These elements work together to give the brand a certain feel and familiarity.
A brand is composed of several different components that work together to create an overall impression about a company or organization. These include:
1. Brand Personality
The brand personality is the set of human characteristics and traits that are associated with the brand through the brand’s voice, tone, and communication style. The personality should reflect the organization’s values, culture, and mission.
Think of brand personality as adjectives that describe your brand, such as “friendly” or “sophisticated.”
You can think of a brand personality as a list of adjectives that describes your brand. In terms of cars, for instance, rugged and outdoorsy are often associated with Jeep, while BMW connotes luxury and sophistication. Ideally, you should aim for between 3 and 5 adjectives. You can use these as a gauge to measure your marketing efforts against. For example, if your brand personality is friendly, you can ask yourself, “Does this social media post sound friendly? Have we included inviting images with colors that will welcome the reader in?”
2. Brand Identity
The brand identity is the tangible elements that make your brand recognizable. The logo, packaging, and sound we mentioned at the beginning are all elements of brand identity. For example, what color makes you think of the Metropolitan Museum of Art? If you said red, it’s because the Met has purposely created that brand association.
Making colors and fonts consistent in your marketing can help establish a recognizable brand.
Some brands go beyond colors, fonts, and logos to include sounds, scents, and other sensory experiences. But just making colors and fonts consistent across your marketing can make a big difference in establishing a recognizable brand. Consider the psychology behind the brand colors you choose and aim for fonts that fit your brand personality.
Your brand identity should stay consistent over time. Any changes to your organization’s name, logo, colors, or fonts should be part of a purposeful rebranding. For example, in 2018, Orlando Shakespeare Theater was rebranded as Orlando Shakes. The company directors said, “A fresh brand direction was needed to encompass the breadth of our company’s productions.” It took them an entire year to fully explore their brand and find a new brand identity.
3. Brand Positioning
Brand positioning is how a brand places itself within its target audience’s minds. You can figure out positioning with one simple question: What makes us different? More specifically, you might ask, “Why would students choose to enroll in our classes instead of someone else’s?”
Better yet, ask your students this question. When you understand why your students enroll, you begin to see where your program fits into the spectrum of learning opportunities they have available.
What makes you different? Why would students enroll in your classes instead of another program’s?
For example, both Harvard and your state university offer college degrees, but students will choose each degree-granting institution for a different reason. They might choose Harvard for its prestigious reputation or because it offers a particular industry-leading program. Others choose the state university because it’s local, affordable, or feels more approachable.
Many organizations fail to position themselves well because they don’t realize what really makes them different. Find the real answer to this question, and you’re well on your way to a strong brand.
4. Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is the level of recognition a brand has among its audience. A brand can build awareness through advertising, social media, sponsoring events, and other marketing efforts. Social media in particular is a good place to focus your efforts if you want your organization to be better known. Research from Hubspot shows that more than 50% of brand reputation comes from being active on social media.
Your brand personality, positioning, and identity all help you establish better brand awareness. When you present your program in a clear and consistent way, it’s easier for students to feel like they “know” your brand.
5. Brand Loyalty
The ultimate goal of brand personality, positioning, identity, and awareness is to build loyalty. Brand loyalty describes the degree to which customers are committed to a particular brand.
When a student has high loyalty to your brand, you’ve basically claimed the mental space in their brain dedicated to learning programs. When they think of “classes,” they think of your program. To achieve this degree of brand loyalty you need a consistent brand that delivers on its promises. You do that with a branding strategy.
What Do You Need for a Successful Branding Strategy?
A branding strategy is the plan you use to develop brand awareness and loyalty. For smaller organizations, it doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. Even thinking intentionally about the components of branding can be helpful. To create a successful branding strategy, you start with personality, identity, and positioning. Then you use these elements to create the following:
- Clear brand guidelines. Create written guidelines that include your brand colors, messaging, logo, how the logo should be used, and any other information about your brand identity and personality. Share these guidelines with anyone who will create content and marketing collateral for your brand to keep your branding consistent.
- Strong brand storytelling. Build an emotional connection with your audience by telling stories about your brand and your students. Make sure that you’re really telling stories and not just listing facts. Books like Stories That Stick by Kindra Hall and Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller can help you learn to do this well.
- Targeted brand messaging. Develop messages about your brand that show how your unique value proposition is the solution for the needs, struggles, and interests of your students. For example: At CourseStorm, we make course registration simple so you can focus on what you do best—teaching students. You can communicate a brand message like this one across your marketing emails, social media profiles, website, course catalog, and anywhere else people may come in contact with your brand.
How to Build Your Brand
We’ve focused a lot on your program as we talked about your brand position, personality, and identity. But the foundation of all of this is actually your students. You shouldn’t create your brand and then go looking for students who will want it. Instead, start by understanding your ideal student, then build your brand around them.
To help your organization build your brand, download these Branding Basics to share with your team.
Step 1: Identify your target audience
Who do you want to serve? Figure out the basics like age, income level, and location. Then go deeper by asking previous students or your ideal learners to understand what they struggle with and why they are or might be interested in the kinds of classes you offer.
Step 2: Claim your brand position
What makes your education program unique? Think about the reasons your ideal student might pick your program. If you can, ask your students for the answer to this question.
Step 3: Develop a brand personality
How do you describe your brand? Write a mission statement and values with an eye toward your ideal student. List adjectives you want students to use to describe your brand. Think about why your ideal student would be drawn to a brand with this personality.
Step 4: Establish your brand identity
Create a brand guide that outlines the most important things someone would need to know to consistently present your brand to the world. It should include details about your logo, colors, typography, tone of voice, target audience, brand messaging, and anything else that sets your brand apart. Share it with your team.
Step 5: Share your brand messages
Branding is a verb, which means it’s something you do, not just something you think about. Work to incorporate your brand messages into all of your marketing including your website, course catalog, signage, social media, commercials, flyers, press releases, and anywhere else you talk about your brand.
Step 6: Monitor your results
Keep an eye on how your brand is performing. You can use key performance indicators like student loyalty, brand awareness, and social media mentions to see whether students are engaging with your brand.
The more people see your brand, the more familiar they’ll become with your program, its purpose, and its offerings. By creating a strong and recognizable brand identity, you’ll carve out your own niche in the market while establishing trust and credibility with your audience.
Keep in mind that successful brands don’t just look good, they also deliver on the promises they make. Let CourseStorm help you serve your ideal student by streamlining your course registration process. Start your free trial today or contact us to learn more.
Nic is skilled in scaling start-up edtech and education organizations to growth-stage success through innovative marketing. A former journalist and copywriter, Nic holds a postgraduate certificate in digital and print publishing from Columbia University School of Journalism's publishing course.