The Heirloom Tomato Effect and Fragmented School Brand Identity

Being born in New Jersey, I am tuned to the tomatoes of the Great Garden State.  As I was digging through tomatoes at a Brooklyn Farmers Market earlier this month, I thought about branding. I was addressing a group of school leaders in an Administrators' Institute that week and the tomatoes and the professionals came together in my mind.

You see, I would be meeting different principals from a school district, and I wanted them to understand the concept of Fragmented Identity as they built a brand for their schools  And, yes, I had a thought about fresh tomato sauce too, but this blog is about storytelling for relationships...and  the educators and the tomatoes were connecting! ( I can provide the sauce recipe if you like. ) I continue to work on edits for a book on bringing Branding to the educational leadership community with Eric Sheninger,  I see BrandED connections everywhere, even in a farmers' market. As the tomato season winds down, I believe so much in educators' using brand and  biz marketing tenets in the new school year, and our book will support that journey.

But what's a tomato got to do with all this?

In the span of a minute as I surveyed the market, I thought of the leaders that I was going to work that week. These leaders are faced with the challenge of "Fragmented Identity" especially at the beginning of the school year when inspiring the troops, welcoming the stakeholders and creating trust that the school year will be successful. They have to unify, but there are so many directives and directions--so many initiatives, multiple projects and expectations. The term Fragmented Identity is what many leaders are facing at the start of their year. It's a marketing term that address the confusion that comes from messaging when a brand's inability to find its unique value is present. It results in confusing the audience for the brand buy. It makes the receiver of the message wonder  what the brand is about and why they should care about the value of the brand at all. The story isn't clear. That's not good for business. Brands need to matter.

In the case of building an institutional school brand... as you stand ready to inspire your stakeholders in the new school year, think of how having a clear, shared school brand would benefit you and the community. A brand that had a solid overarching message that collects your school's varied projects and directions under its collective wing in digital, social and traditional communication, letting people see that there is common ground for all on your agenda. With BrandED thinking you can  unity identity among many fragmented and competing pressures. One well built school brand can make the school message matter to all stakeholders.

 So as I looked into the bins of different heirloom tomatoes, I reflected that BrandED Identity comes from a having a clear common message. I was looking at tomatoes.  A tomato represents a pretty clear message about its value, nutritional content, taste, its season...

But... heirloom tomatoes are sometimes red, or yellow, or brown, or green, or round, or blimp- shaped, or spotted or streaked with color... wait these are ALL tomatoes!   Their value, nutritional content, taste and season are what binds them together...even if they appear to be different. 

So let a tomato inspire you as you set a unifying message. Work on your school brand. Develop a strong Unique Brand Value that allows the connected efforts of your work for the year to aggregate under with energy and clarity. They may look different but a rich brand can unify. If you do that...you may find you've cooked up secret sauce for your first steps into building a school brand!