By Keith Frome
Co-Founder & CEO of PeerForward (formerly College Summit)
We don’t often think of branding as a powerful tool for education reform but it is crucial in driving youth engagement in schools. Applying the power of branding to educational practice offers the field a new approach to driving achievement for all students.
Effective education helps a student define his or her identity. Great brands do the same. In 2015, College Summit undertook a transformational project with Fossil Group and Fossil Foundation that awakened us to the truth about branding: at its core, a brand is a choice about who you want to be. While we might often think of branding as being externally oriented, a powerful brand is, rather, an inward quest for authenticity.
Our partnership with Fossil Foundation has always been collaborative and rooted in the sharing of insights and expertise. When we sat down with members of the Fossil team, we had a frank conversation about the challenge at hand—our brand was not capturing our core mission: to empower students to guide more of their classmates to pursue higher education. This led us to ask ourselves, “How can we express this mission through brand identity?”
Our brand development process started with the program name. We asked, “What concept will galvanize students to lead this movement of college-goers?”
We discussed how educators, teachers, as well as peers already lead students and friends to become the people they are meant to be. We then explored how peers can continue to strengthen their influence to improve life for themselves and others—our core approach—ultimately landing on the program name “PeerForward” to express the idea at the heart of our efforts. We took an iterative approach with Fossil to create the brand identity, resulting in a strong logo with a bold use of color that conveys grit and leadership—qualities the PeerForward program develops in each student.
We now use this PeerForward identity to activate 11th and 12th grade “peer leaders” who conduct campaigns and coach friends (and often their parents) through the key steps high school students need to take to continue their education: creating a college list, following through on multiple applications, completing financial aid forms and making the connection between academic choices and career success.
Just as an educator might tell his or her students to review the material they’ve learned in class, the work that PeerForward and Fossil have undertaken asks the educational system and youth themselves to “re-view” the power of youth.