Why Branding Your School Matters to Gen Z

Branding should be immediately recognizable. Logos, web design, social media posts and copy all contribute to the consumer’s understanding of your brand and what it represents, especially to Generation Z. 

In today’s admissions world, older Gen Z students (middle school and high school) increasingly are part of the decision on what independent school to attend. While parents remain the ultimate decision maker, their child’s reaction to and feelings about a school weigh heavily in the decision to apply and enroll.

If your school enrolls older students, your admissions and enrollment management marketing strategy needs to include a focus on Gen Z as part of your overall outreach. Teens and tweens today have grown up in an era of rapid digital advancements and have seen a variety of brands evolve, grow or even fail in today’s competitive markets. Making your school’s brand consistent and trustworthy will attract more Gen Zer’s to your school.

Gen Z is a generation of leaders and world changers. Brands and schools need to understand that this is a generation that is not looking to be “sold to,” There are several ways to build rapport — and brand awareness — before and during the admissions process. 


Your current and prospective students have a lot of opinions about your brand — and are happy to share it. Research performed by IBM states that, “44% of Gen Z said that, if given the opportunity, they would like to submit ideas for product design.” 

Students should not frame your brand entirely — Gen Z is only one data point in your school’s strategic decision-making — but tapping into savvy, brand-conscious teens and young adults is helpful. If your school’s brand is outdated or could use a boost, host short interviews with students to gauge their opinions on your current branding, their feelings and personal experiences that they associate with your school. Curate any ideas they have for what they would like to see the school represent in the future. These insights from your target audience will provide you with first-hand research you can apply to your rebranding process.

Social listening

What are people already saying about your school? A quick Google search or social media audit can help determine the current brand perception of your school.

Gen Z is on the internet and social media daily, posting, tweeting and saying things that are important for every brand to keep up with. You can meet Gen Z halfway by staying up on the latest trends and activity, so that your brand can follow suit and post relevant content. 

But don’t discount what you’ve already established for your school’s brand. Your current and previous social media posts are crucial in your online presence. As we continue to adapt to a global pandemic, make sure your social media is up-to-date with current events and best practices.

Establishing the “why”

There has to be a clear rhyme and reason why students should be attending your school. Is it your faculty? Your newly renovated facilities? Or maybe an advanced STEM partnership program with a local university? Whatever your school has to offer that sets you apart from other schools should be integrated within your branding, not stand-alone advertising. 

The emotional answer to the “Why your school?” question is where marketing to parents and to students connects. It is the emotion, not the number of APs or sports championships, that is ultimately going to inspire students to apply and enroll. 

Your branding should reflect the emotional reasons why students chose to attend your school — and the kind of outcome parents want for their child. While each individual’s rationale may differ, your brand identity should remain consistent with the overall message and mission of your school.

Emphasizing the experience

Gen Z values experiences more than material items. They’re looking for places and people that will transform their lives and have a lasting impact. (Spoiler alert: So are their parents.) Be sure to frame your school’s messaging around the lifelong experiences and opportunities your school can provide to students. 

By having an interactive social presence, Gen Z will stay more engaged with your content and is even more likely to repost your content. Since so much today is digital, your school’s experience needs to be something that students can take with them anywhere they go, not just on your campus. Expanding your social networking overtime will surely catch Gen Z’s attention.

Focusing more on the day-to-day life of a student at your school is more important to Gen Z then knowing detailed specifics. Use as many examples of individual student experiences to market your school, while at the same time emphasizing the programs or courses students take that make your school unique. 

Defining what your school stands for, its mission and goals are all ways to forge relationships with students and prospective families. For Gen Z, don’t focus on cost value. Focus instead on joining a community where students thrive and underscoring the emotional connection students and families have with your school. The value of your school will be apparent if students feel that they are welcomed and accepted and will thus buy into your brand.

Creating brand enthusiasm

Having students be enthusiastic about your school’s brand allows your students to be your own brand ambassadors. If students are eager and involved in your school, they’ll be more likely to want to get involved in various promotional opportunities.

To increase brand enthusiasm, be fast and responsive to what is going on in the world today and only make commitments to your students and prospective students that can actually be fulfilled. 

Not only do you want prospective students to recognize your brand, but you want to make your brand appealing enough to attract them to your website and become enthusiastic about what your school offers.

Gen Z is but one audience you need to reach, but its opinions, insights and reaction to brands and advertising are important for you to understand to create a successful, comprehensive admissions and enrollment marketing strategy. Learn more about marketing to Gen Z.

Need some expert advice on whether you need to rebrand? Check out Kalix’s free e-book, Brand Re-refresh or Rebrand? 

Brand Refresh vs. Rebrand?


President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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