Zig Zagging to Success

Zig Zagging your way to success seems like a misnomer doesn’t it? But that’s the premiseZag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands of Marty Neumeier’s book Zag.  If you want your brand to stand out, then consider this new definition of brand from Neumeier’s book:

“It’s not a company’s logo or advertising. Those things are controlled by the company. Instead, a brand is a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service or company.” (italics mine)

I work in public education. Our mission is to teach children. What’s captured my imagination is this: How do we brand our school to compel parents to want us over any other school?

Zag has some practical insights that can help. A few of my favorites follow:

Checkpoint 1: Define who you are. Yes, that is a picture of a gravestone. Why? Because I loved the quirky exercise Neumaier uses to help us define who we are–write an obituary. “What would you like posterity say about you? You’ll find the answers are also the answers to the seminal questions: Who are you? Where does your passion lie? What gets you up in the morning?”

Checkpoint 2: What do you do? This should be captured in twelve words or less. “(Think Coca-Cola: To refresh the world.)”

Checkpoint 6: What makes you the “only”? What population does your school serve? Do you have a clear vision of what you do? Does it involve passion and get people out of bed in the morning? What makes your school unique?

Checkpoint 7: What should you add or subtract? Schools don’t get to choose what they add and subtract. How can we minimize the adding and subtracting from state and federal levels and get our “brand” on track with our vision?

Checkpoint 14: What do they (customers) experience? Do you have structures in play that invite and welcome parents in each and every contact they have with you?

Checkpoint 15: How do you earn their loyalty? Good customer service with a short and articulated vision that can be expressed by all employees goes a long way to earning the loyalty of our customers. We want our parents to tell their friends, “Come to my school – you’ll love it there!”

People are always saying that a school is not a business. I would argue that it is, but, it is a business with heart. What if, instead of hopping on the latest trend, or continuing with business as usual, schools took these practical branding checkpoints and purposefully created a vision and purpose from them. What if they measured anything they did by how it fit with that vision? What if that vision included minds and hearts? This would take us to the next level of creating a unique environment that attracted parents to our districts.

What if our school improvement plans included a lot more of the heart right along with the required components?

I see the heart of education in the staff that I work with every day, but usually, it’s individually, not collectively. It seems like everyone could benefit from that short, articulated vision that would engage not only the hearts of our staff, but the hearts of our parents. It seems like this would propel our districts to success. The challenge is removing the “blah” from school improvement and making a new story that will engage parents, community and staff. The question is, do we have the discipline to get it done?