Have viewbooks past their prime? Do they have one foot in the grave? Our answer is: not yet. And here’s why:
MOST SCHOOLS HAVE NOT LET GO
Independent schools are, by and large, traditional institutions with traditional ways. “We’ve always had one.” “We don’t want [read: are afraid] to change.” “Our competitors are still producing one, so we feel we have to.” By themselves, these are not good enough reasons to keep producing a viewbook, which, like all your school’s marketing materials, needs to be strongly branded to get your target audience to take the action you want.
WHAT IF THE WEBSITE DID ALL THE HEAVY LIFTING?
Most independent school websites are nowhere near as branded as they should be. We wish they were. However, even well-branded websites have a fundamental problem: it’s difficult to control the visitor experience. Which pages will visitors view? In what order? Will they take away the messages you want? Control and customize the visitor experience. Viewbooks, on the other hand, control the reader’s experience. If done effectively, they deliver your school brand messages, differentiate it from its competitors, show why it worth tuition dollars, deliver proof points to back up claims, and make prospective families want to visit. Different pieces of the viewbook package can be designed to appeal to different audiences: parents of lower or upper schoolers, upper schoolers themselves, or even grandparents (the frequent funders of an independent school education).
WHERE DOES THE BRAND SHOW MOST CLEARLY? THE VIEWBOOK.
Independent schools struggle with creating and promoting their brands. We don’t mean to be pejorative. It’s just been our experience. (Most colleges and universities have the same problem.) Within schools, the office most likely to handle the brand well is enrollment marketing, often the result of working with brand-savvy professionals in creating the school’s viewbook.
VIEWBOOKS DONE RIGHT RESULT IN RESULTS.
Admissions directors would be the first to tell you that, when effectively branded and designed, viewbooks positively impact the admissions funnel. Consider the results some Turnaround clients have enjoyed:
Flint Hill School: Almost 100% increase in ninth-grade applications in the first year.
Ridley College: 35% increase in inquiries, 4% in applications, 45% in enrollments, and 21% in campus interviews in the first year.
Newark Academy: Highest application pool in the history of the school in the first year.
Our frequent partner Andrea Jarrell created admissions branding for Yale, including a stupendously well-received viewbook. She comments, “Even the Ivies like Yale, Columbia, and Penn still think it’s important to create viewbooks to communicate their brands.”
VIEWBOOKS AREN’T DEAD.
They’re not even having trouble breathing. They do, however, need to justify their existence by trumpeting the school brand to generate interest and draw right-fit families.