From research to rollout, follow the process of Brewster’s branding initiatives and see the results that honor our history while representing a bold and contemporary step forward.
By Lynne M. Palmer
As the Academy approaches its bicentennial in 2020 and the leadership reflects on its vibrant public and independent school history, it is clear that the initial values set forth for the learning community nearly 200 years ago by the Academy’s founders, remain the same as they were on opening day in 1821. And, while staying true to its mission of educating a diverse and honorable student body in preparation for lives that are meaningful and fulfilling, Brewster has always been able and willing to adapt its program to stay relevant with the changing times and needs of its students.
Now is no different. Looking forward, we choose to secure our position as an educational leader and commit to programs of educational excellence. To articulate our vision, which is both farsighted and responsive, we undertook a branding initiative to accomplish the following:
- honor our sense of place and future path;
- be bold in our affirmation that Brewster is The Way Education Should Be;
- nurture a sense of pride and accomplishment in our community through a unified voice and image; and
- be recognized with contemporary visuals for today’s digital reality but reflective of our history.
That journey began last summer when we researched and then recruited Neimand Collaborative to direct a branding initiative. The Neimand team came to campus and met with faculty, staff, parents, students, and alumni to research our strengths and weaknesses. They conducted comparative research and evaluated trends. The team impressed us with their ability to really grasp Brewster’s added value and break down both the industry realities and the messaging realities that were negatively impacting our marketing results.
The good news from Neimand was that our program, and more importantly, our mission delivered on our promise with depth and distinction. The bad news was that people could get buried in the details and weeds with how we were describing our added value. There were important messages that did not resonate with prospective families, alumni, donors, and important stakeholders.
Our strengths were noted:
- a warm and welcoming community
- diversity in teaching practices
- success for each student
- collaborative culture
- support for optimal success
- real world preparation
Our challenges were recognized as:
- misperception of our strengths as weaknesses
- brand recognition
- inaccurate reputation
- complexity of descriptors
- fragmented constituents
Their advice was to be bold and proudly advance the fact that we have something uniquely valuable and exclusively ours – an inclusive educational model and the expertise that goes into its practice. Communicate the high standards, warmth and passion of our community in every point of touch or conversation. Tell the stories of Brewster students doing great things as alumni. Show the pride of a school that is willing to adapt to the times to prepare students for their future rather and not a place that has not changed in hundreds of years. Validate that a nurturing environment encourages excellence from all without encouraging students to compete over each other. Demonstrate that personalization is about challenge and higher achievement without standardization.
A BOLD, CONCISE LOOK
Working with Neimand we developed a message framework that now gives us the tools and the language that reflect our strengths and will help us focus on what is most important to communicate with all of our constituents.
Along with this framework, we pursued a graphic identity coordination to complement this effort and to build a system that would ultimately create a recognizable brand structure for Brewster. This new graphic identity incorporates Brewster’s long ago established primary school colors and iconic images with a contemporary feel that we believe will help us strengthen visual recognition and our reputation as a school.
When I think of notable brands, it is easy to conjure up familiar iconic images. From the golden arches of McDonald’s – one simple M that is recognizable from afar. To the stainless steel apple – you might not want to bite into it but you wouldn’t say no to some healthy stock options. These logomarks are immediately recognizable and the businesses they represent have consistently and successfully incorporated them into marketing strategies for decades. After 63 years for McDonalds and 42 years for Apple, these steadfast visual identities have stood the test of time.
Throughout Brewster’s almost 200-year history, the school has witnessed many visual changes. The name has evolved from Wolfeborough-Tuftonborough Academy to Brewster Free Academy to Brewster Academy; thus, images, events, and communications bear witness to an evolution of this change. Pennants have displayed bright red, maroon, black, and blue with a lonely B, a crowded BFA, or the classic couple – BA. The Brewster Bobcat has stood with a ferocious growl, offered a side profile image, and been mistaken as a wildcat, a cougar, and the occasional mountain lion!
Marketing efforts will place emphasis on Brewster to encourage that name recognition along with a refreshed emblem, seal, and Bobcat logo.
As we developed this branding initiative, we also were developing a new external website, which launched in July. We took the guidance from this effort and applied both message and visual identity to the final product. The feedback that we have received has been overwhelmingly positive.
As we continue to tell the stories of our alumni creating and seizing opportunities, serving others, and living lives of meaning, we will roll out this message platform in new materials and articulate it in everyday conversations with visitors and our local community. We will celebrate our successes and inspire our extended Brewster community to be a part of our momentum and vision for the next 200-year journey.