Being ‘At Home. In the World.’ not brand new to WMA

 

Your brand is what people say about you; how they describe you when you are not in the room. This is true for both institutions and individuals, and it is often a hindrance to understanding what people really think.

By Brian P. Easler

Head of School

Your brand is what people say about you; how they describe you when you are not in the room. This is true for both institutions and individuals, and it is often a hindrance to understanding what people really think.

In my experience, all over the world, people are generally kind and considerate. This is wonderful, but as a result, they are often hesitant to give real, honest feedback for fear of hurting feelings or causing upset. It is precisely that sort of honest feedback that aids most in understanding ourselves — who we are and who we want to be — and it is truly a gift when people are willing to give it.

This is why we chose, after an admission and marketing audit last year, to engage a branding firm called MindPower to perform a brand analysis for us and to initiate for WMA the process of self-(re)discovery. MindPower was the person “in the room” when we were not — for conversations with students, staff, parents, alumni, admission-regret families, and local leaders and business executives to ask all of them what they think of WMA, how they would describe the Academy and what it means to them. One of the primary goals was to determine if those of us inside the school — living it day in and day out — understand it similarly or differently than our other constituents, which will improve how we communicate with our larger community.

Here is what we learned from that research, in a nutshell:

Brand Positioning Statement: For those who value an inclusive environment and globally-focused education, WMA provides the opportunity for transformative growth in a deeply atmospheric setting. Through an intentional mix of challenging academics, applied learning and horizon-broadening experiences, WMA prepares its students to be ready for the world. This is a school with heart — whose graduates go on to great things.

Brand Drivers: We celebrate differences, value a diverse mix of perspectives, push beyond our comfort zones, connect teaching and learning to the work of the world, look through a global lens and foster joyful learning.

None of this surprised us. On the contrary, it perfectly reinforced what we already believed to be true. It affirmed all of the good work the folks at WMA have been doing for generations, and it also gave us a fresh perspective with which we have begun adapting our messaging and our outreach. You will begin to notice subtle-yet-powerful ways in which we will use this new understanding of how to communicate the benefits of WMA in the months and years ahead, and we look forward to your feedback.

A secondary goal of this process was to evaluate our brand identity — the one thing that symbolizes us visually and most succinctly, to determine if it matches appropriately with our brand and conveys what we want it to convey. For WMA, that brand identity is the school crest.

We wanted to preserve the crest and the history it represents for us as our brand identity, but we wanted to do this while also giving it a more simplified and contemporary look. We also wanted to add a new tagline that would explain who we are as succinctly and as memorably as possible.

As you can see at left, and within the context of the branding feedback above, the new crest and tagline are every bit as “global” as they were before, but decidedly more simple, distinctive and representative of the WMA experience specifically. To simplify the crest, in addition to some minor artistic alterations, we removed the vertical line above the chevron that had previously separated the two schools (Wilbraham and Monson academies), literally and symbolically; and we removed the multiple dates in favor of using just the earliest date of the three as our one school founding date. We are fiercely protective of our institutional heritage and we will always be true to it, but we also wanted these recent changes to convey that we are one school, unified, moving forward confidently, together.

Since the new tagline only changes how we describe ourselves and doesn’t change who we are or what we promise, we hope that it resonates with you and your WMA experience the way that it has for us. I also hope that you have an opportunity to return soon so that you can feel the energy on campus and be reminded that at WMA, you too, are at home, in the world.