I’m a proud “old girl” of Manchester High School for Girls, and of course the most famous alumni are the Pankhurst sisters.
Seems fitting to discuss this on election day here in the UK, given that MHSG has decided to forgo the over a century old Manchester worker bee black and yellow in favour of a contemporary look in suffragette green and purple.
We often work with clients to either articulate their brand and positioning / create their logo and visual language, or to update or refresh any element of this, and it’s really fascinating – as a remote stakeholder – to see another organisation in a different sector go through a similar process. Can my clients learn anything from MHSG?
1 Understand your market
Who is your customer? Who are the stakeholders in a complex, high-value buying decision? The world has changed, and young people have far more say than they did decades ago about school choices, and so appealing to the pre-teen market with a uniform that has a slight fashion and tailored edge probably makes sense.
2 Articulate your positioning
The first stage is to understand your offer and your positioning. You might undertake a SWOT analysis, you may consider your strengths and weaknesses in the context of a fuller market / competitor analysis. Nowadays – for business and professional brands as well as schools – it’s very hard to be unique, but you can find out what differentiates you from your competitors, what you do really well, what your “value add” is. All of this helps you articulate exactly who you are, who you help, and what difference you make.
3 Consult with stakeholders and build buy-in
Who are the stakeholders here? I see from the regular newsletters that this has happened slowly, and the school has undertaken surveys and talked to students, parents, alumni and I’m guessing potential customers. Gathering perspectives from across the board can help inform the creative choices as well as make the change process easier to work with.
4 Create something that both meets and exceeds the brief
The end result is stylish and contemporary, with a cut that’s much more “fashion” than the boxy black skirts and blazers. They’ve managed to achieve this while not losing the sense of history and heritage that a school founded in 1874 has. And I don’t know which came first, but the website now has a colour palette based around the purple which complements the brand well.
5 It’s all about communication
It’s clear to me that there’s a genuine comms plan about communicating the changes, process and thinking, and that seems to have gone on both internally and externally. Business brands also need to communicate “in the round” to clients, to stakeholders and advisors, prospects and contacts, staff and team members.
I for one will always feel nostalgic for the black and yellow of my teenage years in Grangethorpe Road, but can see that the school has excelled expertly on consultation and buy-in and been through a well-thought-through methodology. They’ve delivered a creative execution that sets it up for the twenty first century and the changing educational environment, leveraging one of the most important historical attributes of the school.
Just like my alma mater I like to apply critical and creative thinking to a brand and positioning challenge, and always appreciate seeing great work.