Strathcona Girls School: Brand Story Breakdown
Arguably one of the most competitive marketing epicentres in the world lies just to the east of the Melbourne CBD. Perhaps surprisingly, this fast-paced hive of activity isn’t happening in tech companies or retail. It’s education.
The inner Eastern suburbs of Melbourne contain one of the highest concentrations of private schools anywhere in the world. There are 470 private schools in Melbourne. In the inner Eastern suburbs, there are at least 17 private schools under a 10 km radius of each other.
The school you send your child to will determine more than the quality of their grades— it can impact their outlook and resilience, and convey your family’s values. Different schools have different narratives, and in Melbourne these are powerful.
Having first been a high school teacher at Brisbane Girls Grammar School, then Head of Marketing at Strathcona Girls School in Melbourne, I absolutely love the sector with its myriad moving parts.
Marketing private schools and education
Private schools are offering similar services and vying for the same customers: kids aged 3 – 18 and their parents and grandparents. The marketing mission includes:
- getting enrolments at various stages of schooling (early learning, primary, middle school, secondary)
- attracting students and families who align with the brand values (or type of education on offer)
- enticing the top teaching talent to work at the school
- maintaining a brand reputation built up over 50+ years
One of the biggest challenges of all? Positioning the service offering (education) as unique beyond the standard ‘credentials’ every school leaver receives. To stand out, schools cannot afford to aim for the loudest or biggest presence in the market. They need to show their meaning: how the effect change in young people’s lives.
The challenge of making a school brand stand out
The danger for private schools is that they can all end up looking and sounding the same. If I ask you to think of a private school colour – what is it? I bet it was navy blue, followed closely by a forest green or a tartan pattern! When it comes to brand personality, they tend to err on the side of caution. Private schools have reputations to maintain, and they can appear conservative in their marketing messaging.
So how do families choose a school when they seem to be offering the same thing? Often, it’s a combination of family loyalty (Mum went there), reputation, and academic results, followed by a pastoral care style that matches a child’s needs.
Strathcona Girls Grammar – a rebrand exemplar
Strathcona was recently awarded Best Publication for their new prospectus by EducatePlus, a national body for education advancement professionals. They rebranded about four years ago and have continued to evolve the brand over this time. Having worked for a short time on the new brand strategy (I can claim no credit for the finished product!) I’m incredibly proud of what they’ve achieved under the innovative leadership of Principal Marise McConaghy.
The power of a new tagline for schools
Strathcona’s previous tagline ‘Bring out her best’, has been replaced by ‘Girls unstoppable’. The shift in language marks a change in the brand identity and offering that feels tangible. The new tagline is far more appealing to a generation of empowered parents and daughters.
Old vs new tagline
Bring out her best
The teachers have agency: they are responsible for bringing out a student’s talents.
The girls hold the power as they face their futures as unstoppable forces.
Suggests a linear process with a clear start and end date (the work finishes when the best has been brought to the fore in a girl).
These girls just keep on moving forward.
A girl has her best inside her. It can be found, and cultivated.
A girl’s potential is limitless.
The power of a courageous brand story
Strathcona’s previous brand identity had a strong leaning towards community. In fact, when I was the marketing manager I never showed a picture of a girl solo unless she was an award winner. All our imagery conveyed community.
Community is still important to the school brand (and its culture and operations), but the school has had the courage to address head-on something women everywhere know (but aren’t always taught in our culture): we’re a more potent force in our communities when we are empowered to create a strong sense of self and invest in our own development. Instead of sacrificing our interests for others, we lead by example and give back from a place of strength.
They also aren’t afraid to challenge the ‘stereotypes of private education’.
Strathcona’s brand story – ‘About us’
You can read the full brand story on the Strathcona website. But I’ve selected some keywords in the list below that show the careful use of language to bring the brand personality to life. These include:
- set in motion
- life-shaping momentum
Strathcona hasn’t chosen words at random in their brand story. This is a powerful selection that speaks to the heart of the new brand: creating unstoppable young women who are self-aware, mentally robust, optimistic, and balanced. Fulfilled individuals make for compassionate community members.
Although the story is rich in varied words, they are all riffs on some key themes:
- energetic momentum
- future-focussed optimism
A big congratulations to Strathcona and its award-winning marketing team! You’re delivering outstanding education for girls while showcasing the art of the possible with school marketing.