How Brand Identity Theory Can Generate Rabidly Loyal Followers For Your Private School [Podcast]

Americus Reed II

Americus Reed II

Americus Reed, II is The Whitney M. Young Jr. Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and co-founder and partner of identity, loyalty and branding consultants, Persona Partners.

Americus is the Marketing Department’s only “identity theorist,” focusing his research on the role consumers’ self concepts play in guiding buying decisions. He examines how social identity, social influence, values, attitudes and judgments interact in shaping purchase decisions and consumer behavior, but from a social psychology point of view.

Most recently, Professor Reed studied brand identity by examining the triggers that lead consumers to identify with and become loyal to a product, brand or logo.

Americus’ research has been published in top-tier academic journals including the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Marketing Research and the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. His teaching interests include courses in Consumer Behavior, Marketing Research, Marketing Management, Organizational Behavior and Social Psychology.

Americus is a newly minted board trustee of the Enrollment Management Association, which means he’s taking an accelerated, deep dive into independent school marketing as we speak.

In this episode of the Sparkcast, I talk with Americus about identity loyalty theory, how it impacts private schools and how you can leverage it for meaningful , long-term connections to all of the school's constituents. This was one of my easier podcasts to host because of Americus' energy and enthusiasm for identity loyalty theory. I hope you enjoy listening in as much I enjoyed our conversation.


Americus Quoted

Schools ask, “How can I make a connection that resonates with this family where they walk away from the tour, and they have that gut reaction where they say, ‘Yes, this is a place where I’m going to fit. I feel like this part of who I am. I feel like I can grow in this environment.’" When you make that connection, then you can start doing all the necessary things that are related to enhancing that identity-based feeling of affiliation and loyalty.

Logo, colors, tagline are not a brand. They are outward facing tactics that are the external connection to the outside world. 

A brand is a meaning system of those values that need to be clearly articulated and deeply embedded within every single fiber of that school’s interface with that family, through staff, faculty, admin, students…Values have be living, breathing, organic components they feel and sense, taste and touch when they step foot on campus. Even when they’re off campus….

An independent school needs to create a connection above and beyond the curriculum, the buildings, the faculty, that makes parents say “I want to pay for that, because there’s something I trust about it and I’m worth it.”

Your school's brand is an opportunity that protects it from the public school argument.

Don’t think of marketing and branding as evil. Look at it as an opportunity to create something that is fantastic, that’s resonating and connecting your school to your constituents, that creates this immense level of loyalty. Identity loyalty perspective creates life-long advocates.

From an alum perspective, you want people to feel such a deep connection to your school that they’re willing to defend it, to talk about it, and to do the marketing for you …FREE.

The core of the identity loyalty concept is your sense of being part of team. "I’m so proud of this and I want to tell others."

If you’re not obsessive about creating delight for your customers, somebody’s going to step in and eat you up in terms of coming up with a better value proposition.

Inspiration: Americus’ TEDx talk.

What you’ll learn

  • What is identity loyalty theory?

  • How does identity loyalty help independent schools?

  • What are the stages of initial connection to identity loyalty?

  • What is brand with regard to independent schools?

  • How Tylenol and independent schools are similar.

  • How to offset the private/independent school elitist image.

  • How boarding schools could be like ipods.

  • What obsession and powerful brands have in common.


Caption: Private school marketing "power dinner" at The White Dog Cafe, Philadelphia where we talked about you, private school marketers, and how we can make your jobs easier. (l to r) Rob Norman, Inspired School Marketers;  Samuel Botts, Persona Partners;  Dr. Samuel Jones, Director, Strategic Initiatives, MBA Career management, the Wharton School; Liza Fisher Norman, InspirED School Marketers; and Dr. Americus Reed, The Whitney M. Young Jr. Professor of Marketing, the Wharton School. Thank you, Americus, for inviting us.


Be sure to listen to Americus' Marketing Matters podcast on Wharton Business Radio.

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