Expressing The Waynflete Brand

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Waynflete has been described as a school and community that you need to experience in order to truly understand. Last year Waynflete began a “branding” process intended to increase understanding of the School beyond the immediate Waynflete community.  Our brand is, in effect, our promise to our students and their families, so the process has stimulated much reflection about what constitutes the Waynflete brand and about the line of advertisements meant to express it.  

The following articles appeared in the Waynflete Flyer, the Upper School student newspaper, in response to the publication of the first of those advertisements.  The articles were written and the interview was conducted by Gavi King ’15.  

To share your thoughts on the topics she raises and what you think constitutes the Waynflete brand, click here and comment.

Waynflete Flyer, October 20 Issue:

It is difficult to write an article about school related topics that remains unbiased or even, as has most often been the case, unpredictable. However, today, for this specific article, I am prepared to make an attempt. Surprisingly enough, the focus of this piece happens to be a recently approved advertisement for our school. Ordinarily the short little blurbs that you might hear on the radio or see on your television regarding Waynflete would not be significant enough to discuss in the Flyer. That being said, this is not one of those times.

The advertisement in question appeared small within a magazine, modest and eloquently stated. Carefully superimposed atop a photo of a teacher engaging intimately with a student, there is a brief statement about our unique approach to learning. It reads as follows: “Here teachers…have the freedom to fine tune every class and every lab to whatever ignites learning. Sure, it’s more challenging. But considering we’ve got the second highest SAT scores in Maine, it clearly works”.

Omitting my own opinions about this sentiment, I asked others what they thought of this expression of our school. What I found was interesting, in that everyone felt either one of two ways. Some people felt that although our school is college preparatory, the mode of learning encouraged knowledge and growth for personal benefit rather than for a career path or standardized testing. They argued that one of the most appealing things about Waynflete is the idea that we are taught to learn, not to regurgitate. On the other hand, many people felt as though it was time for the school to advertise itself in an upfront way. The facts are not incorrect, after all, and Waynflete is a prestigious and often times competitive school to attend. They closed by saying that parents would want to know that sort of information when choosing a high school education for their children.

Whatever the case may be, it has students and teachers alike wondering if perhaps there are mixed messages being tossed around. In next week’s addition, I will be interviewing Lowell to see where he stands on the issue.

Waynflete Flyer, November 3 Issue: 

Two weeks ago I wrote a somewhat controversial article concerning advertising at Waynflete. In case you never got a chance to read it, the main issue boils down to one question: Is Waynflete promoting itself in a way that reflects the atmosphere of the school? Many people felt that the ad did a great job of capturing Waynflete’s principles, however, it seemed as though equally as many people had a serious issue with it. Because of this divide, I felt as though I should interview someone who is not only critical in the admissions process but also influential within the school. Here are some remarks from Lowell Libby.

Gavi: Many students feel that although we are all inclusive and a “safe place”, we are also competitive and offer a rigorous program. Would you agree with that sentiment?

Lowell: I agree that we are both safe and rigorous.  I don’t see them as mutually exclusive.  In fact, for a school to be truly rigorous, it really needs to be safe because learning to think requires risk-taking, and for students to be willing to take risks, they must feel fundamentally safe.

Gavi: What are your thoughts on the way our school has been advertised? Would you change anything about it (wording, description, etc.)

Lowell: The first question on the subject of marketing is why are we doing it. Our enrollment is at an historic high, and we like the make-up of the student body.  So why advertise at all?  The answer lies in the fact that Waynflete is really misunderstood outside its immediate community.  The marketing firm we hired found that, and that is certainly consistent with my experience and that of many others.  The reason to market is for us to communicate with people outside of the Waynflete community who likely have some misconceptions of the school.  It is important to reach that audience for two reasons.

First, drawing from outside the existing community helps keep our student body diverse.  Otherwise, we are in danger of becoming insular. Second, we need to reach outside of our immediate community in order to keep the school full with the kind of students who will thrive at Waynflete and contribute to the school experience.  The competition for the kind of great students we have now is quite fierce. Take high school aged students who live in Portland.  They can choose from among four public schools, two parochial schools, a charter school, and Waynflete without leaving the city limits.  They can also go to other independent day schools, boarding schools, magnet schools, and online schools, or they can be home schooled.  

If we are misunderstood in the greater Portland area, we could well be missing out on many students who would really thrive at Waynflete and enrich the community.

Gavi: Finally, many people feel as though Waynflete operates in a certain way and is then advertised in a completely different light. How would you comment on this?

Lowell: I assume that you are referring to the ad that states how well Waynflete students do on the SAT.  As someone who works hard every day to help create the Waynflete experience, I don’t like that particular ad.  I can understand why it feels inconsistent with who we are.  However, before condemning it, I think people in the community need to understand that it is not aimed at us.  It is aimed at people who have the misconception that because we don’t emphasize standardized tests, our students must not be good at them.  Because standardized tests are important in the college admissions process, the parents who want their children to have good options when applying to college and who assume our students do poorly on the SAT won’t consider us as a viable option for their children.  That ad is meant to set the record straight with a simple statement of fact so that those parents will look more closely at us as an option for their kids.  

I actually do like other ads. If you want to boil it all down to a bumper sticker, “Learn to Learn” hits the nail on the head as far as I am concerned.  That is really the most important skill we can cultivate our students since they are headed into a lifetime of learning given how rapidly things are changing.  

There is another ad  that I really like: Question the Question.  I can’t wait for that to be made into a bumper sticker.

The articles were written and the interview was conducted by Gavi King ’15.  To share your thoughts on the topics she raises and what you think constitutes the Waynflete brand, click here and comment.