Middle Schools, Brand Clarity, and Making Choices

Over the past several months I’ve had the pleasure of trying to locate suitable middle schools (grade 6 and up) for my daughter to attend next year. Please note that I’m being mildly sarcastic. Selecting good schools are not so easy. Locating them is, if you know what you want in an academic program. It’s extremely important to have a clear sense of what type of educational philosophy will work best for your child. Applying for and getting accepted to them is another thing entirely. At the end of the day it’s a lottery system so no matter how well prepared you are it’s a crap shoot.

One of the problems with middle school selection is picking the top one for your child. You’ve done the research, you’ve visited the schools, you’ve consulted with friends and family about the pros and cons of each institution. Now you have several viable options. When all things appear equal what will be the deciding factor that puts one school at the top of the list? 

The last school my daughter and I visited wasn’t her first choice. It has a good reputation, well respected and offers a good mix of programs. Yet as a parent listening to the Assistant Principal talk about the school I felt a sense of deja-vu, as it wasn’t much different than what was said to me at other schools we visited. Then he did something different. He put on a short video highlighting a former student. In the video it shows her at the moment she receives an acceptance email to Brown University, one of the most prestigious colleges in the United States. 

Unfortunately the video isn’t available publicly, but I thought that this one best  approximated the one we viewed that evening:

For 2 minutes the entire room was silent as we watched the young lady and fellow students cry, scream, and express their joy over her accomplishment. And the shot of her mother smiling from ear to ear spoke volumes. When it was over the Assistant Principal turned on the lights and looked over the crowd and said, 

“This is what we do. Our purpose is to prepare your child to get into college.”

This is now my daughter’s top choice of public middle schools that she wants to attend next year. 

As consumers we face a flood of choices everyday. We like to think of ourselves as sophisticated and rational human beings. When faced with equal choices however, we tend to go with the the emotional connection. That’s part of the reasons why commercials work; they speak to the unspoken need that resides in all of us.

As business leaders, we like to think that we know the purpose of our work. Yet can we speak of it as clearly as the Assistant Principal did? And can we marry it with such an emotionally powerful message? 

In short, is your organizational mission as clear and emotionally engaging as a middle school?

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