Branded merchandise is used in every industry to promote brand awareness and customer loyalty, with common items including pens, caps, hats, and other small token pieces. While usually welcomed and appreciated, these items usually don’t have an overwhelming impact on the recipient. School merchandise, on the other hand, has much more potential. School merchandise tends to be more highly valued, and helps to build your school’s culture and reputation. Take for example senior jerseys, which students often take great pride in wearing (even years after they graduate!) Because schools are much more community oriented, their merchandise is more valued by students, and provides them with an emotional link to their community.

The importance of your school reputation

When it comes to attracting families to your school, your reputation is everything. Education is one of the biggest investments made by families, so it’s only logical that your school will be scrutinised to determine its suitability. You have to remember that families aren’t looking at your school alone, but are comparing you against a host of others. To stand out as a quality school, you need to create a meaningful emotional connection with families, and showcase the USPs that set you apart. Here’s where merchandise comes in. Not only can you use it to foster school community and culture, but also to improve your school’s reputation. 

Using merchandise to build your reputation

When you think about it, most schools are heavily branded. Take a second to picture your school. Some of the first things that probably come to mind are your logo, uniform, and colours. Much like a sports team, these aspects help to build a strong sense of community, and make you feel like you’re part of the team. As a result, school clothing is a common and great form of school merchandise, especially when you invest in clothing items that students would be happy to wear.

Jumpers and jackets are always a popular choice, especially when they mark a special occasion, such as senior year jumpers with the student’s name and graduating year on the back. It’s not uncommon for students to treasure these as mementos of their time in school, and continue to wear them years after graduation (which shows the world the value they found from their time at their school). You can also use merchandise to make new students feel welcome. For example, some schools present new students with a teddy bear dressed in the school’s colours, which is great for making them feel like they’ve been accepted and are now part of the community. 

School merchandise also comes in the form of prospectuses and informational documents, which are fundamental tools for attracting families. It’s crucial for your prospectus to showcase your school’s USPs and brand, but you also need to understand the emotional significance of a prospectus. Much like searching for a new home, searching for a school to send your children to is both nerve wracking and exciting. It’s a long term commitment, and you can use your prospectus to alleviate parent’s fears and strengthen their attraction to your school.

Digital vs traditional prospectuses

There are pros and cons to both digital and physical prospectuses. It’s important for schools to be aware of the pros and cons so they can evaluate their own school to determine the best course of action. While digital prospectuses are becoming more popular, it’s important that you determine the right option for your own specific school.

Millennial and Gen Z parents will be much more likely to appreciate a PDF prospectus, which is a great option for compatibility with most devices. PDFs are easy to share and save, and the parent even has the opportunity to print it themselves at home. Additionally, PDFs are useful for schools due to their linking capabilities. If you have a marketing campaign or you want to drive parents to your website, you can easily include links in your PDF prospectus. If you’re showcasing your USPs in your prospectus, you can link to relevant pages on your website for a more powerful effect. For example, you can link to images or videos of your sports centre if you have a strong sports program that you’re using as a USP. 

If you feel like you’re really missing that physical touch, to make up for it you can use a letter or a flyer with a QR code to one of your campaign pages to give yourself the best of both worlds. You could even include a token gift like a school scarf, or a sustainable shopping bag to demonstrate your commitment to the environment. Another perk of digital prospectuses is their potential for creativity. Schools can show how forward thinking they are by coming up with innovative designs, whether it be using audio clips within the prospectus or integrating a virtual campus tour. Anything that will sell your school to parents should be regarded. It’s all about giving families a clear picture of your benefits, and why they should choose your school. 

Wrapping up

Merchandise is an especially potent tool for schools, who can use their strong communities to their advantage when building an attractive and marketable culture. By paying attention to the emotional potential of merchandise, you can use it to positively influence both your current families and future parents and students. It can be surprising just how attached a student can become to their senior level jumper, or the school teddy bear they were given on their first day. 

Published 26 May 2022