G o l d e n   r u l e s :   s c h o o l   v i d e o s

Video Production Schools…could try harder. State schools have little reason to use video content on their websites. The independent sector is in a different position. Their market is made up of the wealthiest 1% of the population. Aged at around 35, they are the most wired, gadget-familiar people on the planet. You’d never guess from the way independent schools market themselves. Frankly, parents choose a school despite their marketing efforts, not because of them.
Here’s a challenge. Let’s pretend you have £30,000 a year disposable income to spend on school fees. Have a look at a few of the top schools’ websites. Many will have no video content on the homepage (a lot of the websites will not even be fully interactive – able to play properly on a Smartphone or tablet). If you do find a video, try to watch it all the way through. It’s not easy. They all follow more or less the same format: the Headmaster or mistress talks in a very stilted, embarrassed way to camera while we see various shots of children studying maths or playing rugger. After seeing three virtually identical videos, try to remember which was for what school. Impossible.
The mistake they all make is that they fundamentally misunderstand the way their target audience communicates and acquires information. Long, wordy text-based websites are no longer what prospective parents need. They take it for granted that a top school will deliver good grades. They want to know what else the school offers. How rounded is the education? Will my children gain enough self-confidence to succeed? How happy will they be? These are emotional issues, not quantified in league tables, but can be easily settled in a good two minute film. In fact, watching a two minute film in pole position on the homepage will be the two most important minutes a prospective parent will spend. Why? Because those two minutes will allow them to form a favourable impression of that school that will colour their attitude to all else that follows: the remainder of the website, the actual school tour, and their comparative attitude to other schools. In short, the right video will do nothing less than set a benchmark against which all of the other schools on their shortlist will be set.
Schools have taken a long time to see the need for sophisticated marketing. They assumed that centuries of tradition would give their brand an obvious saliency with their target market and so, rather like solicitors, they have felt that it is slightly grubby to be so commercially aware. This has been compounded by the high demand for places at the top schools especially in London. To some extent, they have been victims of their own success. The independent school sector in the UK is the best in the world and many super-rich Russians, Arabs and Asians have queued up for an admission. All of which ignores what happens to near-identical brands in any highly competitive market place. Many years ago, Guinness decided that their brand was so successful, it would inevitably be purchased even if they stopped advertising. Surely, they argued, this vast sum was a waste of money. So they did stop advertising, and sales slumped. Realising their mistake, it has been supported ever since. In the same way, a good school must identify what makes it so special (there will be plenty of unique attributes), translate this into an emotional appeal and present it with sufficient creativity to capture the imagination. Sufficient to make the viewer part with £30,000 of cash per year, for seven years. Per son or daughter.

< The Chairman of Sony does not appear in their TV ads telling everyone how wonderful their factories are. Instead, Sony take ownership of the emotional high-ground. (film by Fallon London)


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