Kennedy Baptist College merger and rebrand

Case study

Winthrop Baptist College and Somerville Baptist College were neighbours. In fact, they shared a boundary, some facilities and even the same Board members. However, they were separate schools with different, but complementary, cultures. There were many logical reasons to merge, but there were also many, many unknowns if a merger were to be considered. Which college name would stay, and which one would go? How would parents react? How would the leaders ensure the best parts of each college culture were at least maintained, but ideally amplified?.

The approach
The College Boards made three critical decisions very early.

The first, very strategic, decision was to create a brand-new college rather than keep one of the existing brands. Brands are much more than their visual identity and it was determined that everyone — students, parents, staff and leadership — would have the opportunity to buy into a new entity. If either existing college name was retained it would become the ‘successor’ by default. This of course had registration implications, but it was considered these could be addressed successfully. The Boards did not want this to be a merger, but rather a unification.

The next strategic decision was to advise staff and parents as early as possible, even before a brand or naming decision had been made, to enable them to be part of the decision-making process.

Visually, Winthrop Baptist College and Somerville Baptist College were quite distinct.

The last strategic decision was to give the process sufficient time to be implemented. Between announcement and launch of the new College, there were 18 months to work out and work through the brand implications.

The rewards for success were clear, but there were many more unknowns that could bring the endeavour undone without deep consideration, meticulous planning and consistent application. The Boards sought the services of imageseven to help develop and execute the visual identity of the new College, and to articulate its core messages and value proposition, which are the cornerstones of brand development. The firm prepared a plan in collaboration with the College Boards to methodically engage with all the stakeholder groups, facilitate staff and leadership discovery sessions, conduct surveys, manage responses to stakeholder feedback, articulate key messages, create a new visual identity and implement the new identity across all the new College’s physical and digital touchpoints.

The inspiration for the new name, Kennedy Baptist College, came from the College Board. William Kennedy was a pioneering Western Australian Baptist, renowned as a man of integrity and fearless courage by the communities he served. His personal qualities could also serve as the basis for articulating the College’s values of faith, integrity, boldness, growth and service. The new College’s motto, “Strive today, conquer tomorrow” draws heavily on the passion and determination of William Kennedy. Visually, Winthrop Baptist College and Somerville Baptist College were quite distinct.

Due diligence was conducted on the ability to legally protect the name with trademarks and registration, and to secure the critical internet domain names before committing. The name passed all tests and was approved. Within a short time, the new college was being called ‘KBC’ by the Boards and staff. Before the undifferentiated ‘KBC’ could take hold, the imageseven team knew it needed to be steered to the short-form of ‘Kennedy’. The planning team readily understood and agreed to never use ‘KBC’ again. It was a simple conversation that permanently impacted the future of the brand.

The visual identity of a school is often confused with the brand, however it is actually the other way around. It is the visual identity (crest, logo, colours, typography and more) that should reflect the brand of the school. Kennedy had a once in a lifetime opportunity to take their brand — who Kennedy is, what they promise, and their ability and willingness to keep that promise — and create an entirely new design that reflected the heritage of the two founding colleges, the brand promises of the new College and their aspirations for the future.

Outcome

From mid-December to late January the plan reached a crescendo of activity. Students and staff left their respective colleges at the end of 2012, and returned in 2013 to the new Kennedy Baptist College. New building and directional signage, new website, new email footers, new staff name badges and myriad other brand details were in place on day one.

kbv-new-log0

The College also had a new Principal, Mr Mark Ashby, who had been appointed from sister school, Mandurah Baptist College. “Kennedy’s marketing efforts since 2012 have been crucial in establishing the College in the community,” said Mr Ashby. “The development of a marketing strategy maximised the success of the Kennedy commencement and has now cemented our profile in the community with a very strong marketing position for the future.”

Kennedy-Baptist-College

Mark Ashby was appointed as Kennedy’s first Principal.

Kennedy Baptist College’s marketing continues to focus on brand awareness and positioning as an alternative to well-respected state high schools as well as a number of mid to high-fee independent and Catholic schools. In recent years the College has harnessed the power of out-of-home and digital campaigns for lead generation and Open Day promotion, all contributing to a vibrant community, flourishing local reputation and record enrolments.

Kennedy Baptist College’s 2019 tour campaign continued to reinforce the key messages established in their marketing strategy.

Insight applied

  • Communicate with stakeholders as early as possible.
  • Allow sufficient time for research, creation and implementation. (Hint: it will take longer than you think.)
  • Visual identity should reflect the school’s brand … not the other way around.

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