How educational institutions can become brands


It is interesting to note that the process of branding of educational institutions bears some similarities with that of any FMCG product. However, there are differences as well. The subtle differences will be more pronounced in education, as it is a service with noble ends. Some nuances of the process of branding educational institutions are discussed in this article.

Introduction

A toilet soap, for example, needs to explain to customers the unique selling proposition of the product and systematically build the brand through advertising. As opposed to this, a school or a college need not extensively advertise itself, but the word-of-mouth publicity -- for good or bad-- is more pronounced in the case of the latter and it is extremely important that the educational institution sticks to basic values much more than the FMCG product.

Even when we can observe such differences, the main difference is that the educational brand will take at least 25 years before it is firmly lodged in the mind of the students and parents. It will emerge as a "first choice" institution, only when the brand values start resonating with the ramifications of the brand as they play out in real life. For example, if the intellectual capabilities of the brand are found to be far superior to the other institutions and the school or college also has that bit of extra to offer, it becomes a more pronounced brand that stands out.

In the main, the process of branding of an educational institution will focus on a) Going far beyond commercial considerations b) The attitude and competency levels of its teachers c) The interception of perception and reality of the brand d) Industry links and job orientation and e) Ability to produce honest citizens.

Going far beyond commercial considerations

When an educational institution aspires to be a brand that stays in the public consciousness for decades together, it is making a bit statement of intent. Such a brand-building process has noble values as its unique selling proposition(ESP) and the organization starts growing from strength to strength, only the basis of its USP. The Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School Chennai, for example, is a branded school.

It has been nursed to its present status by its former principal, Dr.Kuruvila Jacob. Its former students have set up a trust in his name and the most notable alumni of the school, Mr. Viji Santhanam, Managing Director of the Chennai-based Brakes India Private Limited, and Mr.N. Ram of The Hindu group, are actively involved in special training programs for school teachers. This institution is not alone. There are so many others and each of these institutions has gone far beyond making money. A school that has become a good brand is the TVS Higher Secondary School Madurai, which is not only a branded school but has provided education to hundreds of children of farmers.

The attitude and competency levels of its teachers

Make no mistake. The branded schools and colleges have teachers with the highest competency levels. Since the admission process is always based on merit, and the school or the college has strong alumni support as well as public support, the USP goes on increasing day after day.

If the college has unique courses, this USP goes on increasing and this gets reflected in other areas as well. For example, the branding of the famous Loyola College' Chennai, has increased manifold, since it introduced the first-ever media-related course in India, the B.Sc( Visual Communication) course. This course is highly job-oriented and it has film actors like Kamal Hassan as visiting faculty members. The alumni occupy several senior positions in the industry. This course has also meant that the value-addition of the other courses like the undergraduate and post-graduate courses in economics have also become world-class. The levels of motivation of teachers are always very high and the placement records of the college are extremely good. This is exactly what makes a vital difference.

The interception of perception and reality of the brand

When the perception and reality of the brand is one and the same in the public consciousness, the brand goes on growing every single day. The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad was initially nurtured to its present status by one illustrious John Mathai, the first director of IIMA. He ensured that everything happened on merit. Today, IIMA is ranked among the best in the world, for no small reason.

Similarly, the brand value of each of the aforesaid educational institutions keeps on increasing only because the popular perception of millions of parents that is firmly entrenched in their minds, finds resonance in terms of results -- the products are simply world-class and can occupy the best of positions in the world.

Industry links and job orientation

The IITs and the NiTs, for example, have commendable links with the industry. They have research projects funded by world-class organizations. Their contribution is quite practical and they receive the research grants and support from the industry, only because the industry finds the contribution of the faculty members and even the students to add tremendous value. What really matters to the industry is results. They are least bothered where it comes from. Institutions that can cut down the learning curve by producing the best of students are always in demand.

Secondly, the industry wants solutions to their problems and not theories. Infosys Technologies and TCS, for example, have been able to attract the best IT brains from the country and mold them to produce some of the finest professionals who actually have gone on to build highly reputed global organizations. In the future, only such institutions that can increasingly add substantial value to the industry will survive. The schools will be the nurseries of producing such brilliant minds that will be further shaped by the colleges, situated all over the country. This process will go on increasing day after day. There is no other alternative either.

Ability to produce honest citizens

The ultimate litmus test of any well-branded institution is this: has it been able to produce some of the best brains in the country, that have made a significant contribution to the society and are making a big difference to the same society, in terms of values. For example, as mentioned above, Mr.N. Ram, who studied at the Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School, has molded the prestigious The Hindu newspaper, published from Chennai and so many other cities of India, into a newspaper that stands for unearthing the truth and standing by the best standards of journalism. As a rule, the newspaper does not fail to give its readers the best. It also has made giant strides in exposing corruption in high places. In doing so, it has collected all the evidence but left it to the best perception of the powers that be and the readers to decipher the truth. However, in this process, the credibility of the newspaper has increased manifold. It never criticizes anyone for the sake of doing so. Its editorials are the best in India, in terms of quality. Every single IAS aspirant is on record that he or she does read the newspaper every day and its sister publication, the Hindu Business line.

There is no sensationalism in what the newspaper wants to convey. There is no untruth that is ever published. It is value-addition in every way. Mr. N. Ram's contribution to the transformation has been unique. This is exactly what the branded educational institutions always do. They produce harbingers of hope, of optimism and honesty, and integrity. These citizens make a significant difference in society. The educational institutions always enjoy word-of-mouth publicity, more so, when the respected alumni are often seen in their former campuses for some function and that gets reported in the press.

Conclusion

Some aspects of the brand building of educational institutions, as it gets played out in the real world of the wider society, have been discussed above, in some detail. This process is a highly dynamic one that keeps on adding value every single day. Such institutions have the capabilities of staying relevant at any point in time and making massive contributions to society.


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