Let’s face it… Education is not an industry known for taking risks, especially when it comes to marketing schools. Many school districts across the country use 20th-century techniques to market to 21st-century parents and students.
Studies show that one out of four millennials have children. That means in the next couple of years, your elementary schools and middle schools will be full of millennial parents expecting the best educational experience to help their children prepare for creative careers. Engagement will not work using old-fashioned marketing and advertising techniques.
Creativity Overtakes Traditional Marketing Techniques
Billboards and newspaper advertisements are dying a slow death. COVID-19 has helped hyper-accelerated digital marketing campaigns and put the nail in the coffin for spending vast amounts of dollars on traditional marketing. Creativity will be the one way to stand out in the highly competitive world of educational choices.
Now is the time to strategically think about how we market to students and parents in our school districts. If we do not adapt, we will not win against the ever-expanding competition.
10 School Marketing Risk-Taking Ideas to Win 2021
Here is a list of 10 risk-taking school marketing ideas to get your creative juices flowing as you begin to create new campaigns for your school district.
Warning – some of these ideas are crazy and not for the faint of heart.
1. Buy an Old-Fashion Ice Cream Truck
Nostalgia is big right now. Recapture parents’ and students’ love for the local ice cream truck by buying a used truck and wrap it in district pictures and logos. Make sure the bell works.
Once you have the truck up and running, travel around neighborhoods ringing the bell and passing out free books to young children. Make sure the book you give children has a call-to-action sticker on the inside cover.
2. Create School District Mix-Tapes on Cassettes
Speaking of nostalgia, a webinar I listened to about Millennials and Generation Z said that cassette sales for these groups have skyrocketed. Why not capitalize on this phenomenon. Create a mixtape on cassettes, and mail them to potential parents or distribute them at events.
It does not matter if they can not play them. Parents will more than likely post a picture of the cassettes on social media. It is a great way to build awareness amongst young parents.
3. Rent a Traveling Billboard to Spread your Message
Billboards are not the best investment unless you creatively use them. By utilizing a traveling billboard, you take the boring out of static messages on the side of busy freeways.
To take it one step further, make sure your billboard travels to key competitor locations. There is no better way to advertise your school district than during carpool at a competitor school.
During carpool, especially during the afternoon, you have an audience that is stuck. And most of the time, parents get frustrated with the whole carpool process. At that point, they might be willing to message about making a change to a different school. That is your time to drive back and forth with your billboard.
4. Release Balloons in the Air with Secret Messages
Do you need a creative way to send a mass message to your community? Use the power of helium. Design a QR code note you can attach to balloons and pick a day to let them fly in your community.
I remember doing this science experiment as an elementary student in Texas. We wrote letters and attached them to balloons. We asked people that found the messages to write us back. Some of the notes made it as far as other states. Think how easy this will be in the digital age.
Use a QR code that the balloon finders can scan to take them to a special message with instructions. Track the analytics and determine which message cam from the furthest destination. Send the top three unique SWAG bags from your school district.
I realize this might not be safe for the environment. This list is only here to get your creative juices to flow.
5. Hold a Fifa Tournament at Little League Soccer Games
Fifa is one of the most popular games on consoles like Xbox and Playstation. I would recruit high school soccer players to host a Fifa tournament across your district at little league soccer fields.
You can rent a big screen and project the matches in the soccer field parking lots. Trust me, parents and children will stop and watch. As the children watch the tournament, you can set up a booth to advertise your school district and your soccer program.
6. Create a Roblox or Minecraft World Showcasing School Programs
During the pandemic, Roblox and Minecraft once again surged in popularity. It was a way for children to create worlds and interact with their friends. Your school district can capitalize on this trend.
Find a tech-savvy coder in your school district (student or teacher) to help build school or school program worlds in these games. Invite students to join your server and embed subtle ads within your world. You can also create clothing, games and buildings that relate to programs in your district.
7. Hold a David Blaine Type Event on the Roof of a School
The magician David Blaine is known for his much-hyped illusions that usually involve a death-defying stunt. You do not have to take it that far, but you can use his marketing techniques to create your spectacle at one of your schools.
For example, you can have a teacher or principal campout on the school roof to bring attention to an event or school program. Or you can rent a popular band in your community to have a pop-up show on the school roof. Make it memorable and out of the ordinary to wow your audience.
8. Create a Fictional Teen Web Series Based on a School Program
Why not use the power of YouTube to create a student-produced fictional web series based on one of your top programs in the school. Students can develop a school “soap opera” by writing scripts and filming the episodes.
During the shows, you can sneak in critical locations or classrooms you use for programs within your schools. It is like a modern-day product placement for your school district.
9. Hide QR Codes on Campuses Going to a Secret TikTok Message
Use secrets to your advantage. Develop a QR code that goes to a student-created message on TikTok. Print stickers with just the QR code and secretly plant them in high schools across the district.
Have them email a secret password to receive a free t-shirt of another type of SWAG in the video message. You can track the analytics to see which schools are participating the most. The key is not to publicize that you are hiding the QR codes. Let your students find them organically.
10. Create a Pop-up Classroom at a Local Kids Park
Do you have a popular park or swing set in your community? Use it to your advantage. Create a portable pop-up classroom you can take to different locations. Set up the classroom at a local park so parents with their children can see what a typical Pre-Kindergarten or kindergarten classroom looks like in your school district.
Make sure to pass out collateral to parents and have activities like coloring books for students to do. Having parents see an actual classroom is a great experience to select your school district when they are looking for educational choices for their children.
The list above is just a few ideas to break the mold for advertising your schools to potential parents. The key is to be creative and get away from the same boring promotions. Your department is full of creative individuals. Tap their potential and get creative!