Rebranding is never easy. What is really behind a rebranding effort is an attempt to uproot deeply held misconceptions about a brand; a mere facelift isn’t going to fix these communication problems. As many communicators know, perception can be a powerful force when it's working against you.
Waynflete School in Maine had what amounted to a brand crisis on their hands due to falling application rates, and enlisted the help of agency Right Hat to help rebrand the school. Waynflete had come to be thought of as not academically rigorous, too artsy and primarily for wealthy families in the Portland, Maine area.
Although the students at the school achieve the second-highest SAT scores in Maine, the negative misconception about the school’s academic performance remained. The partners set out to prove that even though the school uses less-traditional teaching methods, it still has top academics. By doing this, the partners hoped to boost attendance rates at the school.
Right Hat and Waynflete worked together to implement the “Learn to Learn” campaign. At the heart of the effort was a challenge to the way people think about education. Working against the initiative was the belief that stringent rules and a fixed curriculum equal a stellar education. Instead the partners focused on how Waynflete teaches students skills they’ll need for a lifetime, not just a test.
To address these issues and give the school the new image it desired, Right Hat and Waynflete used these two tactics to ensure its rebrand was a success.
Shift the focus
Waynflete’s previous marketing efforts were inconstant in terms of both design and messaging. Even though its marketing was extensive, it ultimately failed to portray the school how it wanted to be seen by focusing too heavily on the school itself.
With the Learn to Learn campaign, the partners shifted their focus to the school’s most important stakeholders: parents. It's parents who decide where their children attend school, so a strategy was needed that spoke to that audience. Now, stacks of applications feature references to the campaign’s tagline and parents continue to speak about how it resonates with them.
Get your audience thinking
To bring about a kind of radical reimagining of the way parents thought about the nature of education, the partners used a series of provocative questions to anchor their messaging. Two effective questions the program used were, “What kind of school teaches students to question the question?” and “What kind of school knocks historical figures off their pedestals?”
By not making a direct appeal to parents and instead giving them something to think about, the partners were able to generate a high level of interest in the brand by simply engaging their audience in an open-ended discussion about the nature of education. These kinds of questions helped to generate intrigue within the audience, which is reflected by the 70% click rate and 90% open rate of the campaign’s email.
All in all, the rebranding orchestrated by Right Hat and Waynflete helped to increase inquires and applications to the school by 15% and 14% respectively. The partners also received a PR News 2016 Nonprofit Award for their rebranding efforts.
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