The hardest part of branding higher education…

…isn’t taking data from research reports and discovery sessions to come up with creative ideas for a campaign or a tagline. Honestly, that stuff is quite easy.

The hardest part is letting go – of forgetting all the old notions, perceptions and sometimes predictable ways a client has communicated in the past; and replace it with a language, a tone, and a lens for the future. A single brand lens that all can shared by all – from prospective students and their parents to the college community to alums and future donors.

But this isn’t easy to do.

When we allow ourselves to forget old models, we create spaces for new ones to rise. Old vestiges are replaced with new tones, and a new language is created – a new focal point that raises the perception floor for a client, and helps them forever see themselves in a new light.

I’m not speaking of tactics here, I’m talking about implanting a marketing and brand focus that has the potential to galvanize an institution and change its destiny. But as I said, this stuff isn’t easy. It takes courage, trust, and a bit of daring. And for higher education branding, it requires an admirable respect the institution’s rich and venerable history combined with a vigilant determination to make it meaningful and relevant for the future.

The seeds are planted and ready for harvest – if we can see past the weeds.

Almost any good book on the creative process will contain something about the creative incubation period. This is a period of time between the discovery process and creative ideation where the subconscious takes over and the magic of creativity is supposed to put all the pieces together.

I’ve experienced this phenomena and it works. I suggest we all build time into our process to take full advantage of it, and resist the urgency to get back together “before we forget everything.” Forgetting certain things can be the most valuable part of the process.

And besides, after a lengthy discovery process – I’m just mentally exhausted.

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