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Your BRAND is so much more than your logo, the colours you choose, or the fonts you use. Brand is not simply a marketing concept, or purely about your communications, it is very much a management issue. Your brand should be driven by your business strategy, your products and services, your culture, your people, and be powerful enough to claim your space in the marketplace.

Your brand should be confident enough to deliver your whole reputation through your active voice, your language, the stories you tell, along with the images and film that complement your message and help communicate it to the World.

So what does your brand say about you?

I can inject passion, enthusiasm and excitement into your thinking, find solutions and help you meet your challenges head on.

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...I can only describe what I got back as first class in every respect. I suppose the ultimate acid test of any service provider is 'Would I buy again?'  I have; Sally is one of my Go-To people for advice!

Keith Jones
Angel Investor

Knowledge Is Power: The Importance of Insight

This article was commissioned by ISQ International, a specialist consultancy helping the Independent Education sector.

One of the most important skills of any marketer is to have a real thirst for knowledge – in all its finer detail – appertaining to anything and encompassing everything that could impact a brand’s success. However, time restraints mean marketers are tending to cut corners when it comes to undertaking analytical research. As a result I regularly hear feedback such as:

“It’s now intuitive.”

“I know and understand the area/market, I’ve lived here for years.”

Personally, I believe once you begin to solely use the ‘gut feel’ approach you’re doomed. Even though this is important, there is so much more required to be added to the mix than past experience; just one shift in the UK or global market could have a massively adverse impact on what you are trying to achieve.

A good example was early in the last decade – the UK population was set to change hugely in terms of births as Generation X delayed having children until their 30s, unlike the baby boomers who traditionally started their families in their 20s. I was new to the independent school sector at the time and initially undertook extensive research, which then became a habitual task. This included not only looking at internal stats relating to pupil trends over the previous five years, but also looking forward using ONS stats to establish birth patterns from the 90s until 2035. What I discovered was alarming. All schools – both state and independent – were set to encounter around a 10–11% reduction in children coming through the system. This may not sound much, but pupil head count for any school is crucial; even a small reduction would mean loss of valuable revenue that could result in a make or break scenario for smaller schools; as a result sadly many state primary schools did not survive.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 1 illustrates the number of male children aged 7 in the North West from 2013. By this point numbers had risen from well under 39,000 to just below 43,000. The graph gives future projections of a full recovery by 2019 for this year group.

Having several years’ notice in advance of any threat to recruitment meant a creative, long-term marketing strategy could be devised and delivered through flexible annual marketing plans, all designed to ensure that the anticipated gaps in specific year groups were addressed.

By 2013, the four-year dip had reached children aged 11, a key entry point for senior schools and again competition was fierce as schools battled to meet their targets.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Anyone working in an educational environment will have experienced the impact personally as this shortfall worked its way through junior and senior years and is now affecting Sixth Form entry, traditionally a fickle audience at the best of times. Retaining students at Sixth Form can be a real issue in itself as many tire of having been in the same school – some from nursery age – and strive to assert their independence by venturing on to Sixth Form Colleges, usually with a Pied Piper approach.

As can be seen in Figure 3, the dip for entry at age 16 began its decent in 2014 and is beginning to have a huge impact which, if the predictions are correct, is only going to get steadily worse.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Following on from this of course is university recruitment, which will begin to feel the impact from next year. Although these stats are for males in the North West, the trend is UK-wide.

But back to the main topic of the article, for which I borrowed Sir Francis Bacon’s quote: ‘Knowledge is Power’*. He wasn’t referring to market research of course, his reference at the time was to a social liaison rather than the revision of material situations, but non-the-less still extremely relevant. Working as an in-house practitioner meant producing an annual, highly detailed Marketing and Analysis Report – the Knowledge – which contained everything from internal and external stats, to competitor movement and transport implications.

However, another crucial aspect I’d been tracking over time was the demise of the news print industry and the take up by Generation X – the primary target of all schools over the last decade – of accessing their information via the Internet through hand held devices. The strategy to build the digital social landscape was introduced in 2009 to ensure we were ready.

Research alone, of course, will not tell us what to do; we have to work towards solutions using our knowledge as a guide. In order to achieve clear actionable insights, research helps us to make informed decisions to complement our intuitive ones. It gives us the ability to look for patterns in the insights and then consider the knowledge, alongside the team’s experience and expertise, to make informed decisions. From this the development of ideas naturally emanates as the team moves towards building something that works – solutions that respond to those specific insights. Without this intelligence it is impossible to consult with the rest of the senior team in order to devise an informed and relevant Marketing Plan each year and deliver success.

* ‘scientia potestas est’, Sir Francis Bacon circa 1597

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