Brewing a remarkable school brand

How to be 'anything but typical'

I work with schools to teach brand and marketing strategies to educators. That job didn’t exist a few short years ago. It’s not typical work and neither is school branding, which I characterize as “business as unusual.”

Branding is an empowering trend for educators who move out of their typical professional silos into understanding marketing tools. Administrators must be “omnichannel” telling the story of a school online and offline.

First, we need a brand that identifies us, enhances school culture and connects us to opportunities. Crafting your school brand can build internal and external relationships that get people talking positively.

Remarkable educators can control their narrative. Those stories must be anything but typical.

Being remarkable: Purple Cow

One of the finest minds in marketing, Seth Godin, addresses the need for being “remarkable”— getting people to notice, to talk, to spread the good word about a message. Ideas must be remarkable—something to talk about. Godin explains that no idea spreads, no concept gets interest, no loyalties are born from being typical.

He uses cows as an example. Cows are typical. No one stops to look. But if the cow were purple we would stop in our tracks and remark.

Can schools do this? Schools have regulations and must present to the public in ways that are typical. There are the structures that must be recognizable and not so remarkable as to scare your community off.

How do you go beyond typical? Go get some coffee and think about it.

Actually, part of the answer is in that coffee. There are thousands of coffee brands. Coffee is typical. Coffee is coffee. But brands like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, 7 Eleven and others have learned how to brew their rich brown mix into a distinctive “purple cow.”

These companies know how to message through a unique brand value and create a special bonding brew. They create stickiness, a marketing term that takes something typical and creates an emotional bond. This is the glue between a product or service and consumer loyalty.

If the business world can create remarkability around a cup of coffee, our schools can do the same around their own remarkable, unique stories.

Purple Cow schools

What does it look like when an administrator adopts the Purple Cow model of thinking and becomes the storyteller-in chief of a brand? If I were to give a Purple Cow award, Luis Torres, principal of C.S. 55 in New York City would lead the way. Torres offers a few tips on balancing what’s typical against the need to build a remarkable school brand.

First, aim for unique in communication of school brand. His logo, for example, takes the typical tiger found in so many school logos and moves it visually to a new direction.

Second, be consistent and omnichannel. His logo tagline, “A True Community School” is embraced by the community. They even developed a school mantra: “Hear us ROAR.” Roar is worked into every message across the omnichannel.

But Torres doesn’t stop at these identity markers of the school. He uses Instagram (@torresascd) and Twitter (@Torresrealtalk) to promote his remarkable, consistent school brand message and ongoing narrative.

He writes a short “Morning MTA Reflection” blog as he commutes, speaking to his school audience about how he deals with challenges such as procrastination, and urging his readers to think differently.

“I am on social media to promote all the positive things happening in our school” he says. “I want people to see that public education is not bad and that there are great things happening in our community.”

If you have found a way to balance typical with remarkable as you communicate your story, please share it with me (and with Torres). Call it a digital coffee klatch for professional development in a “business as unusual” world of educator purple cows.

Trish Rubin, former educator and now marketing consultant, wrote BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships and Empower Learning. Visit her website at

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