Chicago Public Schools: A Public Lesson in Branding
Case Study
Brand Results

Chicago Public Schools would soon learn a big lesson about just how powerful the creation of authentic and relevant relationships can be as a brand force. AE Marketing Group used its Brand Lab Series to foster these relationships.

A
Engagement with local community groups and parents improved
A
Market share loss to charter school competitors stabilized
B
Student test scores improved

“AE Marketing Group’s brand strategy allowed us to market our school in a way that is meaningful to the community we serve.”

Kristin Blathras
at Chicago Public Schools

AN INDUSTRY IN FLUX

Facing budget constraints and increasingly stiff competition from rising charter school alternatives within the city, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) found itself facing a serious problem with both its brand message and experience. As a result, the nation’s third largest school district turned to AE Marketing Group to find brand solutions.

“We instantly felt the magnitude of advertising that the charter schools were dumping into local communities,” Brian Walker, CEO and Founder of AE Marketing Group, said about working with CPS to address its challenges. “It became clear that we couldn’t outspend the competition.”

Chicago Public Schools Report Card

 

TEACHING THE TEACHERS

Instead of spending big, Chicago Public Schools would soon learn a big lesson about just how powerful the creation of authentic and relevant relationships can be as a brand force. And in order to foster these relationships, AE Marketing Group used its brand expertise, which involved meeting with local CPS leadership and having them focus on four core strategies:

  1. Look at brand as bigger than any single marketing/media message and recognize that operational improvements are critical to the overall student experience.
  2. Build a brand communication strategy around the idea of “our” in order to better connect parents/students with teachers and staff.
  3. Focus as much attention on afterschool programs as on academic programs in order to provide a safe environment that fuels individual interest and promotes student camaraderie.
  4. Create a network of community partners to strengthen and deepen local neighborhood ties.

 

Chicago Public Schools

As CPS official Kristin Blathras noted, “AE Marketing Group’s approach allowed us to market our schools in a way that is meaningful to the community we serve.“

CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS REPORT CARDS

Walker stressed to CPS officials that, “Your brand can’t just take a position and communicate it. Chicago Public Schools must live that position each and every day and with everyone who comes in contact with its brand.” Following a brand strategy pivot, fresh creative treatments and a grassroots effort to improve CPS engagement with both students and parents, the school district saw over the next 12 months that:

  • Market share loss stabilized
  • Parental involvement increased
  • Students’ academic test scores show improvement

In light of those improvements, CPS official Michael Beyer explained that, “AE Marketing Group inspired us to elevate the story of our brand in an era when schools have constant competition.”

Summary

Chicago Public Schools would soon learn a big lesson about just how powerful the creation of authentic and relevant relationships can be as a brand force. AE Marketing Group used its Brand Lab Series to foster these relationships.

Customer
Chicago Public Schools is the third largest school district in the United States with more than 600 schools providing education to approximately 400,000 children.
Key Challenge
How can CPS compete against Charter Schools with larger ad budgets?
Results
Market share loss stabilized while community engagement and student test scores increased at local levels.