Another Brick in the Wall: The Branding of Education

AnotherBrickThere have been brands and then there have been BRANDS. There are those about which books are written, around which theories are propounded and then there are those that people just desire. The brands that are meant for few. Their very distance is what increases their appeal. The harder to own the more desirable they are.

These brands span industries and product/service categories. From diamond to a perfume, clothing to cars categories have a brand that is to die for. What all of them bring with them is a pride of association.

The business of education is no different. There are universities, colleges and schools that are brands.  We must have, as students, parents, employees, entrepreneurs, friends we have always looked up to, been in awe of, given better treatment to people because of their alma mater.

If you step back, these are brands that have been built on performance. Over time as more and more alumnus of these institutions succeed the higher they climb. The other parameter also has been how easy or difficult it has been to become a part of these brands. More than any other thing the respect for these institutions emerges from the knowledge that only the capable are deemed deserving. This perhaps is the fundamental premise on which the promise of delivery rests.

A recent conversation with friends over dinner brought to the fore how the parameters of assessment have changed. The reference of course was to schools in and around the capital city. If you are a parent trying to get your child admitted into school or have undergone the process (read trauma) in recent years you will have your strong views about it too.

The opposing arguments in the debate rested on performance on one side and promise on the other. Now perceptions can be founded on either. This is where branding comes in I suppose.

There have and will always be top ten lists and rankings based pretty much anything ranging hearsay to actual surveys. We may choose to use or trash them but sure as the sun shines we seldom ignore them.  Unfortunately, in the Google age they are the chosen method of settling an argument.

Several “world” schools and “international” schools have come up in and around Delhi in the past 10 years or so. There are quite a few that get counted amongst the finest and the best. Brands in their own right. Brands that are desired. Brands that signal the formation of a new order.

The founding pillars of these brands (institutions) are not past performance. Truth be spoken they have hardly been around long enough to establish a track record or to claim their share in the greatness of the alumni. Yet they are desired. What then is the formula for their success?

A professor once told me this and it stuck. Brands can be made desirable or aspirational by pressing any or all these levers that drive brand perception.

Product: Brands that become aspirational not on their steam but the virtue of the product itself. Example brands producing diamond jewelry.

Process: Brands that create products or services with the help of a unique ingredient or exclusive process. The “Nobody does it the way we do” promise. Example The Rolls Royce, A Breitling watch, Häagen-Dazs ice-cream.

Performance: Brands that deliver in the superlative space putting them at the top of the heap because not many can match the performance. The first, the fastest, the widest, the best…in short superlative. Example super luxury automobiles

Premium: Well it’s not just the price that we are talking of here it is anything extra even the wait.  Typically it is an associated P and a brand that has any of the P’s mentioned above as its rai·son d’être would automatically attract a premium.  However, there have been examples of brands that have relied on a premium alone to drive the perception of superior quality. The service industry has a few examples in restaurants and spas that rely on pricing themselves high to drive the perception of exclusivity.

Question is as the new world schools lay their brickwork which one of the 4P’s is driving their desirability? For now though, it doesn’t seem to be performance.

As Einstein said Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.

Is Sonic Branding A Dying Art??

Remember the days of listening to All India Radio? The times when watching TV meant waiting for Chitrahaar during the weekdays and the mega-entertainment bonanza on Sundays topped of with a Movie in the evening? An era when Print (Newspapers & Magazines) ruled roost and amongst the lesser mortals there was radio, billboards, bus queue shelters and in-cinema; television was a fledgling.  Radio jingles were the order of the day and as television took off some of the earlier TV spots took a similar approach.

As available media choices increased with the C&S boom and further with the advent of digital media the role of radio advertising diminished and the “sound of the brand” became a matter of detail.

Often, creative thinking as far as brands and advertising are concerned, is skewed towards the visual manifestation typography, colour pallete, tonality,images etc etc. Days and months are spent on getting it right over lengthy on-brand off-brand debates.

Simple question: If brands are like people and each one carves its unique identity. Isn’t our voice as much a part of our identity as are our physicality, handwriting etcetera?

There are no pre-defined mandatories as far as creating or building a brand are concerned. Organisations spend millions of dollars in creating, propagating and sustaining the “Brand Identity”. There are few brands however, that have invested time and effort in creating their audio signatures and fewer still who have maintained them zealously.Image

With the world becoming a smaller place and brands having to create mind-space across cultures and geographies one would reckon an Audio identity is a must. Forget music, how many brands get pronounced they way they want their brand names ought to be?

Music is widely agreed to be a universal language with commonly practiced protocols.

Sound has the power of conveying emotion in a manner the is most widely understood. Sound leaves a deeper and longer lasting impression on the human mind.

Unlike visuals sound need not necessarily be in the foreground or in the primary attention space for it to have an effect.

The author does not deny that music is widely and wisely being used in campaigns, the fear or concern however is that it is being limited to campaigns.

Brands that create a broader footprint with their identities shall prevail and sustain in the mind-space longer and stronger.

The beauty of an aural mnemonic is that once established it is embedded in the visual, we don’t need to hear the sound every time. Most of us sub-consciously hear “Ting ting ti din” every time we see the Britania logo or for that matter when we see the Intel logo we hear it too!

Listed below in no particular order are the best examples of Sonic branding from an India perspective according to me. Not necessarily all were created in India. The reason I mention them is that for all these brands their signature tunes/songs/sounds have remained integral to their communication over the years and have evolved with the brand. Check them out!

1) Britania:
2) Nescafe:
3) Airtel:
4) Tata DoCoMo:
5) ICICI Bank:
6) Kingfisher:

Other honourable mentions will be for Doordarshan and All India Radio, today the FM radio brands carry the flag with their stationality.

The above is just a top of mind, if you are reading this and can come up with more such examples of brands that have consistently used sonic branding do post a comment.