Tag Archives for " marketing "

A cool and fresh approach to marketing (I’m so jealous!) – SCN Encourager

By Tom Page, SCN Founder | The Encourager

One of these days I’ll take a bow.

I’ll welcome the praise that flows my way.

For now, I’m just going to call out good examples in marketing whenever they pop up, even if I had no hand in its creation.

Santa deserves the credit for today’s example,

as it was on Christmas morning I found two of these wrapped up and tucked into my stocking.

Naturally, I have my suspicions about who under my roof put Santa up to this tease, but no matter.

The two tiny “cans” of Altoids gave a mighty lesson in marketing.

Beyond the uniqueness of the Altoids can itself, I was impressed by how it featured the Altoid name.

A “social proof” tagline above it: The Original Celebrated 

A differentiating statement below it: Curiously Strong Mints 


Tell me this wouldn’t work for a school district!

This is too easy a concept to swipe to not try it.

When you eventually get around to opening a tin of Altoids, another surprise awaits you.

(Well, maybe “surprise” is a bit of a stretch…)

Anyway, the mints are wrapped up inside a thin piece of classy paper which proclaims yet another message.

These mints must be strong if they make you cry “Uncle!”

Now… would any words or phrases like these fit your district’s academic program?


Cutting Edge!

Or maybe something like this works better.

Simply pull the same differentiating tagline off the cover of the tin.

That’s probably what I’d do.

Come up with a slick slogan right at the beginning.

And keep repeating the same thing over and over and over again.

I know I should be more curious about why I’m this lazy.

But you know, I’m just not.








4 actions you take that always make a difference – SCN Encourager

By Tom Page, SCN Founder | The Encourager , Your Marketing (How you connect)

And these “4 A’s” are free to boot!

The bottom line truth contained in this statement is no doubt why you push these out at every opportunity.

You understand your team and entire school family need to keep hearing this.

[Big pat on the back for you inserted here]

Now me?

Don’t ask.

I’m a grandmaster at overlooking the obvious.

Even important bottom line truths.

This is why periodically check-in with self-described “Jersey girl” Marie Forleo.

Her Marie.tv shows on YouTube are incredible… and they always get me thinking.


So somehow, someway… you’ve got to find 30 minutes to take in her interview with marketer extraordinaire Seth Godin.

If you consider yourself any kind of communicator-influencer-persuader-marketer at all, spending investing a half hour with Marie and Seth will take you immediately to the cutting edge of more than a dozen fresh insights and perspectives.

Now truth be told, have I ever actually sat down and purely focused on watching a 30 minute YouTube video?

Heck no!

I reserve that kind of expenditure of my time for sports on TV.

(Life’s priorities and all…)

So do what I do.

Pull up the interview on your phone or iPad just to listen to it in the background while commuting, doing the dishes, or shoveling snow – and trust me – you’ll soon be stopping and replaying sections just to make sure you “heard that right.”

Now I probably should’ve deleted the phrase “and trust me” in the previous paragraph.

That was probably was a bit of a reach.

Sorry ’bout that.

But you know the classic communication maxim.

Keep repeating something often enough and soon people will believe it.

So… we shall see.



We approach numerous crossroads everyday. This one’s unavoidable. – SCN Encourager

By Tom Page, SCN Founder | The Encourager

This choice always presents a toughie for school communicators.

We’re too nice.

We don’t enjoy “this way” or “that way” situations.

Most of us would rather try to find a course of action that splits the difference between the two.

But there are times when we can’t (shouldn’t) muddle our way along.

Especially when the two options square-off BEST PRACTICE vs. BEST MARKETING.

Even though there’s value in both.

As one offers the safety of the herd and less risk.

And the other offers the opportunity to stand out but with greater risk.

SO…whatcha’ think?








I like having a clear-cut decision delineator to fall back on.

After allmy wife can’t be everywhere!

– – – – – – – – – – – 



Browsing the holiday displays at Bronner’s

By Kym Reinstadler, SCN Feature Writer | Expert Insights

It’s a valuable field trip for school communicators

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 8.04.25 PMAs a kid growing up in mid-Michigan, I thought Bronner was one of the reindeer that pulled Santa’s sleigh. I suppose I was confusing the name with “Donder” from the Clement C. Moore poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

But I wasn’t entirely off base.

Bronner’s, Frankenmuth, Mich.

In Michigan, the Midwest and beyond, it is Bronner’s that delivers the trappings of Christmas joy to thousands of homes, cities, and businesses.

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland (founder Wally Bronner, a devout Lutheran, stipulated that Christ be emphasized in the name) bills itself as the world’s largest Christmas store. Walk in 361 days a year and it’s going to look and sound like Christmas.

I can’t imagine another establishment challenging Bronner’s claim to yuletide magnificence.  No place else gives shoppers a selection of eight Santa thrones. Bronner’s $900-per-day electric bill is proof that the seven-acre sales chalet glows Christmas inside out.

I’ve spotted billboards for Bronner’s in travels in most states east of the Mississippi. The advertising must work. Bronner’s is situated in Frankenmuth (“Michigan’s Little Bavaria” ), which has fewer than 5,000 residents, yet the store attracts more than 2 million visitors annually.

Learning from a display giant

Kevin Maurer with gigantic bauble with Wally Bronner’s image painted on it.

Since it’s Christmastime, and Bronner’s is Christmas kitsch at it’s finest, I made an appointment to speak two years ago with Kevin Maurer, who designs Bronner’s interior commercial displays. Kevin, a father of six, is also the Frankenmuth school board’s treasurer. You’ll see his decorative Christmas and Easter displays in shopping malls, casinos, hotels and municipal properties all over the U.S. and in Canada.

I asked Kevin to share some tips that school communicators could use to create more attractive displays.

Kevin, who’s been with Bronner’s 35 years, began with the disclaimer that he studied business, not art, in college. He confessed that he might feel under-prepared for the job if Wally Bronner himself had not given him years of on-the-job training.

Bronner died in 2008 at age 81.

“Mr. Bronner added Christmas decorations to his existing sign painting business,” Kevin said. “It was obvious to those of us who worked with him that he was a natural. He had a knack for good design.”

Here are the essentials:

  • Your lobby must give clear visual signals, possibly even written instructions, about how guests are to proceed once they’re inside your front door. Ask yourself, “Would I know where to go next if I just arrived from out of town?”
  • Don’t crowd displays into the woodwork. Bring them out from the wall and let them “breathe.”
  • Stagger the elements. Nobody looks at “birds on a wire” for very long.
  • Group elements in odd numbers, not even numbers. It’ll look more balanced.
  • Vary the size of elements in a display. Ideally, one element should be dominant, signaling what’s most important to view first.
  • It’s impossible to over-estimate the appeal of color. Be lavish. After all, it’s the holidays!

A penny-pincher’s guide to creating great looking displays

Gingerbread decorations

While many of the commercial displays Kevin designs cost upward of $150,000, he takes pride in the fact that Bronner’s refurbishes 17-foot Santas, 15-foot snowmen and other large decorations to help customers make them last decades.

Kevin also helps customers afford Christmas makeovers. He links potential buyers of gently used decorations with owners who want to switch up the holiday décor to keep their holiday appearance fresh. Case in point: The very same decorations he originally sold to Lansing Mall were subsequently purchased by Birchwood Mall in Port Huron, and then by a shopping mall in Odessa, Texas.

While Bronner’s has more than 50,000 types of yuletide trappings it can sell you, Kevin said it doesn’t have to cost a mint to create a festive effect. Using shiny paper to wrap  framed wall art and empty boxes like presents is an inexpensive way to be festive, he said. Adding bows or changing the color of bows is another inexpensive way to redecorate, he said.

But Kevin’s favorite low-cost way of celebrating the season – or any special event – is giving personalized ornaments. “Penning” is  the occupation of 36 people (most of them part-time) who work on Bronner’s cavernous retail floor. In addition, 25 penners are employed to personalize orders that come in over the internet.

Karen Lynch personalizes baubles.

I had a pleasant chant with penner Karen Lynch, who was writing names on boxes of train ornaments purchased by a Connecticut organization. Karen told me how she always looks forward to trimming her tree at home with a personalized bauble gifted to she and her groom at their wedding in 1975 — decades before she was hired at Bronner’s.

“It’s nice to make something that you know will be treasured, even though it doesn’t cost a lot,” Karen said.

What’s your strategy for creating a display that gets noticed? 


Has the face of your competition changed? – SCN Encourager

By Tom Page, SCN Founder | The Encourager

How would you describe it?

Spedizione veloce_001Marketing experts have told us for years that the “real competition” affecting organizations comes from the expanded number of choices available to consumers.

For example, we want our parents to come to our school open house.

They are free to choose to attend… or stay home, go to work, go shopping, hang out at a sports bar, or choose from “it’s anybody’s guess.”

People with unlimited choices are our real competition.

The nearby charter school or a neighboring school district may be your visible and tangible competition, but your real competition is the multitude of available choices, including many not related to education at all.

Does this make sense?


It’s now old news.

Because the experts now say that the wide range of choices is no longer our real competition.

Our real competition is something else.

For sure, all of the “many choices” are still a significant competitive factors.

They’re still a burden on the back of every school communicator.

But the real competition we must beat today is TIME.modern city at night

In 2014, the kudos and high marks from consumers go in ever-increasing numbers to organizations that offer easy processes in speedy-kwik ways.

So what’s this mean?

It means we’ll be challenged to move fast, pivot quickly, and “launch” without the benefit of waiting around for the perfect plan to come in from the blue-ribbon committee that begin its work in 2011.

It means you have something to mull over while you enjoy your weekend with your family and friends.

I’m not sure how my mulling will go.

Cindy has a list on the kitchen counter of some things she’d like to see some “fast action” on.

But I don’t know.

I think this “move fast and pivot quickly” concept needs further study.

Speed shouldn’t be rushed.


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How 8th graders brought the 2012 Super Bowl to Indy

By Kym Reinstadler, SCN Feature Writer | Expert Insights

Dianna Boyce, left, and Super Bowl volunteers.

Dianna Boyce, left, and Super Bowl volunteers.

How did she work that magic?

That’s what school communicators asked after reading my Super Bowl story on Dianna Boyce, who headed up communications for the Indianapolis host committee.

To set the tone for Hoosier Hospitality right from the get go, Dianna said the host committee decided to have eighth graders – who would be seniors when the event would take place if all went well – deliver Indianapolis’s bid to all 32 NFL team owners.

Just imagine a meeting where someone tosses out the idea of having eighth graders visit every team owner in person to pitch the benefits of bringing the Super Bowl to your community. Imagine also that this idea had to be acted upon with less than two weeks before the bids were due to the owners and you had absolutely no protocols for organizing out of town travel for minors. Forget it.

But this was the playbook that Dianna had 12 days to pull together.

Magic, indeed!

Dianna began by emailing messages requesting a “student ambassador” to the superintendents of large school districts in Indianapolis and the nine townships that

Dianna Boyce

Dianna Boyce

surround it. “We decided to leave most of the selection criteria up to the school districts,” Dianna said. “All we asked for was an eighth grader who would represent them and us well.”

Viewing Indianapolis and its suburbs as a large donut, Dianna then extended the invitation outward to superintendents of large districts until she eventually landed her 32 ambassadors. While most students lived in metro Indianapolis, one came from as far away at Terre Haute, a good 75 minutes from the city.

The email invitation campaign had its glitches. Email filters sent some of Dianna’s initial notes straight to Spam, so follow-up calls were important to assure that the message was received, she said.

“There was some questioning and pushback, but that’s understandable since they didn’t know me,” Dianna said. “They needed lots of information to be comfortable with what we were trying to accomplish.”

In the end, no district that was asked refused to participate, Dianna said.

A 32 member team of 8th graders is formed.

Some school districts appointed a top student athlete as their representative, while others had students write short essays. Although the ambassadors were mostly boys, Dianna said she was glad several girls were appointed without her having to step in and make gender part of the selection criteria.

The Sunday before bids were due, Dianna gathered all 32 newly appointed ambassadors to the Indianapolis Colts training facility for a “draft” Every student chose a number out of a helmet as they came in the door. The student with the lowest number got to pick first from a long table that held 32 identical gift bags. Each gift bag contained a jersey from a different NFL team, which signaled which bid that student would be delivering.

“Our goal was for the students to hand-deliver bids on the Friday they were due and have the most fun possible doing it,” Dianna said.

Is this cool or what? (But the work is only beginning.)

Dianna said the student ambassador project required clear and timely communication on several fronts: to parents, school officials, and chaperones, NFL team front offices, the airline, and people providing ground transportation in each city.

She’ll tell you that she didn’t sleep much during this time frame.

Dianna Boyce and some communications liaisons.

Dianna Boyce and some communications liaisons.

Northwest Airlines helped make this strategy possible by providing complimentary flights to the students and their school chaperone as they fanned out to deliver the bids. (In a few cases, students traveled with a parent instead.) Only the West Coast deliveries required an overnight stay.

Students who selected nearby Cincinnati and Chicago in the “destination” draft were given a choice of how to get there. The student going to Cincinnati opted to go by limousine. The student going to Chicago wanted to fly (from Indianapolis to Detroit to Chicago) because he never experienced this before.

All student ambassadors (even “Katie” delivering to the hometown team, the Indianapolis Colts, more on that later) gathered that Friday morning (May 8, 2008) at the Indianapolis airport in front of a big leader board marked like a football field. (Which has now been retired to Dianna’s basement.)

On offense. Moving the ball forward.

As the student ambassadors arrived at the airport, Dianna marked the team they were delivering to at the 10-yard line. When the student boarded their plane, their team advanced to the 20-yard line. When the plane took off, they moved to the 30, and so on until “touchdown” –  their return to Indianapolis.

As the 8th grader/chaperone delivery teams reached their respective cities, Dianna lined up ground transportation, usually by private car. At this point the every NFL team owner was waiting for their Indianapolis packets in their offices. There were no home deliveries.

In some instances the delivery was made to another member of the administrative team because the owner could not be available but Dianna said every team made the deliveries special for the students. The eighth graders were given tours of the facilities, had their photos taken with any players who on site, and were usually sent home with multiple team jerseys and other souvenirs.

There always one in every crowd.

There was one team where not much more than a front office delivery could be arranged, but Dianna wouldn’t name the team. She took responsibility for the dud, saying that she had failed to reach a person in that organization who could understand the tone the host committee was trying to establish with the personal deliveries by Indy 8th graders.

“Except for this one instance, teams made it very special experience for the student ambassadors, even for our student who got Indianapolis in the draft and didn’t even leave town,” Dianna said.

Still given the royal treatment

That student, Katie, got to take a limousine with a her friend and the chaperone from school to the Indianapolis Colts training facility, where she delivered the bid and got to meet and take pictures with her favorite player, Adam Vinatieri, whose four Super Bowl rings are the most of any place kicker in professional football history.

Dianna Boyce sports a Super Scarf. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)

Dianna Boyce sports a Super Scarf. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)

2008 – Present

The eighth grade ambassadors traveled to the team owners in 2008. The Super Bowl in Indianapolis was played in 2012.

The student ambassadors weren’t “retired” after the bids were delivered. Dianna said they returned periodically over the next few years to participate in various Super Bowl community service and charity events that had an education connection.

The student ambassadors’ private Facebook page is still active.

“Some lasting friendships were made,” Dianna said. “It was a lot of effort in a short amount time, but it was so worth it. The playbook we used set the right stage for everything that came afterward.”

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