To change your stars you must win their hearts: a higher ed branding tale.

Recently, while watching the movie “A Knight’s Tale” with my son for about the 50th time (no kidding), I picked up on something I hadn’t heard before in all the times we’d watched it together.

If you don’t know the story, it follows the life of a poor 14th century squire named William Thatcher who always dreamed of changing his stars by becoming a knight. He seizes his moment when his master dies during a break in a jousting tournament. Donning his master’s armor, he finishes the tournament in his master’s place – and wins the joust!

He then meets up with Geoffrey Chaucer, himself a down on his luck writer/gambler looking for greatness. Chaucer makes Thatcher a deal; in exchange for his care, he’ll write him a patent of nobility. Knowing it’s needed to compete in other tournaments, Thatcher accepts the offer, and in that instant, the two are bonded. William Thatcher will now be known as Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein from Gelderland, and Geoffrey Chaucer will act as his herald.

Branding Higher Ed Seize the Moment

It’s now Chaucer’s turn to seize the moment. Knowing he needs to go big, he introduces Sir Ulrich as a “knight sired by knights,” and heaping flourish on top of flourish, he whips the crowd into a frenzied state. And after a touch of self promotion, he quickly exits the stage.

branding differential

With the crowd still roaring with excitement and anticipation, Chaucer’s fellow squires remain unimpressed: “Well, that was different,” one says. To which Chaucer quickly replies, “Yes, well it’s time we celebrate our differences, don’t you think?

Win their hearts

Then without hesitation, Chaucer looks straight up at his liege, Sir Ulrich, and says, “There, I’ve got their attention. Now you go and win their hearts.”

Wow. Just like branding, don’t you think? When I heard this, my jaw dropped. This is precisely what we do for our clients. As a higher education branding firm, we act as our client’s herald in two ways: a) we help them discover their one, true, authentic voice; and, b) we build affinity for that voice through user experiences and interactions (websites, inbound campaigns, viewbooks and more).

And while we know we play a critical role in the process, like Chaucer, we acknowledge our limitations. The inevitable “winning of their hearts” remains in our client’s control, not ours. Each must seize their own moment, be bold in their stance, and unwavering in their march. To live up to [brand] promises made by their one, true voice.

Standing on the brink of change is uncertain if anything. You are at a point where now must act and do something. Most shrink in the face of this uncertainty. But the bold ones will march forward, seize their moment and like the now knighted Sir William Thatcher, change their stars.

Learn more about how Elliance has helped change the stars for colleges and universities around the country through its disciplined process in higher education marketing and branding services.