For the pathfinders
Established in 1584, Uppingham is a prestigious independent boarding school, counting Harrow, Eton and Beneden amongst its peers.
Uppingham has a rich history, with its fair share of firsts. Most notably, the school pioneered a holistic approach to education in Victorian times – an approach that is now adopted by all leading schools.
However, research conducted in 2016 confirmed what newly appointed Headmaster Dr Maloney already understood, Uppingham was in danger of being seen as out of step with leading, global institutions.
Dr Maloney wanted Uppingham to take the pioneering lead again by re-evaluating how to educate children for the ferociously-paced and unpredictable mid 21st Century.
Having used brand to accelerate and amplify change at Dr Maloney’s previous school, Bede’s, we were invited to help with the transformation of Uppingham.
We interviewed key stakeholders to interrogate third-party research, identify key strengths and understand the degree of cultural shift required to achieve Dr Maloney’s ambition.
We humans are tribal; we need to belong. To flourish today however we need to belong to multiple communities, not just one potentially homogenising one.
Strategy, Purpose & ValuesBased on the insight that the strength of Uppingham’s community was both its appeal and its Achille’s heel, we set about redefining the school community. Shifting the emphasis from inward-facing to future-facing.
Working with the leadership team we defined the school’s purpose, big idea and values.
We made sure the positioning built on the school’s heritage and strength of community whilst propelling them forward.
The aim, to inspire a community of collaborative pioneers, clear on their individual responsibility to wider society.
We gave a series of presentations to help all staff understand the importance of creating a coherent and compelling brand, and the significance of their role in building the school’s reputation. These sessions demonstrated the scale of the leadership team’s ambition and set the context for workshops that followed.
We trained senior leaders to facilitate workshops where colleagues were asked to use the new values to address specific and very real challenges.
All workshops took place well in advance of department heads having to prepare their plans for the next academic year, so they had plenty of time to embed the values, adopt ideas from the workshops, and adapt targets.
It also helped enormously that all staff lived with the values for months before they were invited to help us shape the brand identity.
Making sure that the brand strategy is always front and centre; from the selection and direction of partners through to implementation planning and the development of the marketing and communications strategy.
With the brand positioning buttoned down we appointed Nomad as the lead creative agency, after a competitive pitch. They were the perfect fit but not the obvious choice – bold, consumer-centric and digital first.
Fundamental to the creation of a transformational brand is buy-in. We held working sessions early in the identity development with key stakeholders to make sure the brand was both ambitious and authentic.
Providing guidance on skillsets, budgets, implementation planning and pitches, we helped with the selection and direction of the website agency, copywriter and design specialists to bring the brand to life appropriately – championing strategy and standards.
It can be all consuming for the client responsible for the brand programme, and a key part of our role is mentoring – motivating, helping our clients prioritise, plan and reach out to colleagues for support.
The re-brand programme has been an Uppingham team effort, led by the Marketing Director. Real change has been possible – from embracing digital and re-evaluating the Admissions process through to value-led mentoring programmes – because the whole leadership team were engaged from the offset.
As we move into the next stage, our focus shifts to the creation and implementation of the 5 year Marketing and Communications strategy, and brand guardianship to continue to drive internal change and build the school’s reputation as a leading global educational institution.
The need for schools to equip children to thrive in uncertainty came into sharp focus with Covid 19, only three months after the new brand was launched.
As many educational institutions stumbled, Uppingham quickly rose to the challenge. Uppingham’s vibrant learning community appeared to seamlessly move online – flourishing as Virtual Uppingham. Of course it involved superhuman effort, fearlessness and focus.
In June, Uppingham was the first independent school to announce its plans to reopen in September. Another early indicator that the school is on track to reclaim its position as a pioneer.