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What's the Value of Your Charter Network Brand?

A charter network’s brand is probably the least understood asset in most charter management companies, yet it can be one of the greatest tools to building value. Tracking brand health and understanding your network brand’s contribution to financial performance are critical in uncovering opportunities for growth, understanding ROI, determining brand strategy, and focusing marketing investments.

Although it is classified as an intangible asset, a charter network’s brand can be consistently measured and valued and therefore should be held to the same demands of performance as any other business asset.

Understanding that your networks have a brand valuation will help you approve budgets for brand and marketing activities because management can make educated decisions on their return on investment (ROI).

1. Identify Your Competitive Advantage and Opportunity

Understanding a charter network’s brand value relative to competitors can inspire change in growth strategies. It’s not enough to simply be different from other education providers; you must stand out in ways that drive value to achieve management success. The only way to do this is to understand the full context of the market and how it impacts the network. Identifying shifts and trends in your network’s brand strengths uncovers opportunities to advance through service adjacencies, geographical growth, and mergers and acquisitions activities. The proper network brand intelligence also gives you insight into where the education market is going before your competitors do. When you ask the right questions and maintain a continuous pulse on the dynamics around you, you can predict marketplace shifts and adjust accordingly.

2. Optimize and Legitimize Your Investments

By understanding and defining the value your network’s brand creates, questions about brand-building investment change from whether to invest to how much to invest. If you have a solid benchmark of brand health, when you take on new activities such as pay per click advertising or rebranding decisions – whether at the network or school level – you will be able to understand exactly the impact your efforts have on network brand value. You can model the impact of a projected lift in brand to determine expected financial results and compare outcomes with associated costs and identify optimal investment levels.

Management companies that understand this manage their brand investment to maintain and maximize brand value. In our research, KIPP: Public Schools is among the charter management organizations with the highest brand equity. They are characterized as a brand that communicates aggressively, shaping the landscape of its markets. This kind of presence has helped frame their markets to their own strengths and helped them reap the related benefits.

3. Enhance Your Portfolio Decisions

Often education management companies are managing a network of brands: network brands, sub-brands, lines of learning solutions, and program / online service brands. Consistently tracking and monitoring the health of each entity’s brand allows you to fully understand the entire ecosystem of your management company’s brand portfolio. You can understand the connections, influences and the “halo effect” that occurs between the master brand and sub-brands and vice-versa. Knowing this enables investment decisions that truly balance and streamline your portfolio.

4. Informed Decision-Making in Strategic Alliances and Licensing Opportunities

Understanding the value of all management company assets informs negotiations in mergers, acquisitions and partnerships. Bringing an existing network under new management can be tricky, and emotional attachment to pre-existing entities can be strong. But by objectively assessing the value and dimension of all brands involved, leadership can strategically deploy a new network brand for maximum impact. Also, knowing the value your brand brings – and where its weaknesses may lie – helps identify opportunities for partnerships and acquisitions that may not have otherwise been obvious.

Tracking brand value can also open doors to turning your brand into a product itself. For example, Doral Academy was a huge success in the Miami charter school industry. From that brand, Academica launched Doral College, the online dual-enrollment college program that is shared among all of its house of brands.

Knowing the brand’s value also permits predictable revenue growth through licensing efforts. A brand on the move creates momentum that can be leveraged. Licensing is a great way to make significant income from the brand itself.

Co-branding efforts are also better evaluated when one understands their brand’s valuation. For example, the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana, Miami co-branded with Academica’s Mater Academy to create a micro-community brand concept called Mater Kiwanis. In this way, both Mater and Kiwanis borrow from each other’s values to move each other’s goals forward.

5. Validate the Marketing Efforts of Your Team

Measurement and metrics add science to the art of creative brand building within a charter and education management organization. By utilizing a tangible measure of impact, leadership and marketing teams can be objectively evaluated for their stewardship and management of the charter school network brand asset over the long term. Creating a common vocabulary between brand and finance strengthens marketing’s position at the management table. Because the return for branding can be identified and tracked over time, the effort and results for all departments are visible. This permits all senior managers to work together for the optimum total return on investment throughout the entire network. When finance and marketing cooperate and work toward defined goals, everyone wins.


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