How We Created a Brand Ecosystem for a Nature-focused School

Private Schools Marketing

THE CLIENT

The Balsam School is an independent elementary school located in Kelowna, British Columbia, serving students from Kindergarten to Grade 6. The school specializes in an inquiry-based learning approach, emphasizing student engagement and active participation in the classroom, the outdoors, and the larger community. Balsam is recognized for its unique educational model that integrates outdoor experiences with classroom learning, creating a well-rounded experience for their students.

THE CHALLENGE

Getting to know how a school is perceived is the first step toward developing a new messaging strategy. When we started this project, Balsam faced a perception challenge. Many parents (and community members) thought of them as “just a forest school" that focused mainly on outdoor activities – which could make them doubt the school’s academic effectiveness.

Our goal was to change this perception. We needed to show that while the school loves nature and community, it also provides a strong academic foundation for its students. We knew creating a strong and consistent brand messaging strategy would help Balsam control their own brand in the marketplace and present the school as a perfect mix of academic rigor and nature-based, community-driven learning. 

 

 

THE STRATEGY

Our brand process began with talking to the experts: the staff and families at Balsam. We started by interviewing key stakeholders to understand not only their pain points but also who Balsam is at its core. Then, we conducted research to find out what current parents thought and felt about the brand. 

To continue our research and understand Balsam's place in Kelowna, we looked at other schools in the area to discover what made Balsam unique. Other options for families in Kelowna are either traditional, rigorous private schools, religious-based schools, public schools that can sometimes be limiting for students who need to learn in innovative ways, or completely outdoor programs that don't provide academics that prepare for secondary school and beyond. We learned that there are really no other schools like Balsam – and these unique differentiators provided a solid foundation for our brand.

Our research revealed that Balsam parents are looking for an innovative educational experience for their kids – one that's academically solid, but not in the traditional way. Many of these parents are entrepreneurs – a common trend in Kelowna – so their lives are a little more fluid and flexible. By highlighting the school's practical learning approach and community involvement, we were able to tailor our messaging to appeal to a diverse group of people whose motivations, barriers, wants, and needs are as complex and diverse as they are.

One of Balsam's key strengths is that it fuses classroom learning with outdoor and community activities. In the same way that an ecosystem supports growth in nature, Balsam is not just part of the community but contributes to its development symbiotically.  Based on this research, we developed a brand positioning for The Balsam School that presents it as an educational ecosystem – not just a school. 

THE EXECUTION

To bring The Balsam School's brand to life – and provide them with the right tools – we focused on creating clear brand guidelines. The result was a brand clearly defined in its voice, tone, messaging guidelines, communication pillars, and overarching story. Then we translated this knowledge into simple, strategic messages and direction for both internal and external audiences. 

This project didn’t involve a new logo or a new brand entirely, but we did define and expand the tools that already existed in a way that matched the new brand messaging and tone. This gave the marketing team a whole new toolkit of graphics, messaging, and ideas of how the Balsam brand should appear to the general public. We outlined how to use their logos, selected brand fonts, created a complete and updated color palette, and shared examples and inspiration for social media graphics, photography, merchandise design, and more. Our goal was to make sure the school's brand looked the same everywhere, whether online or in person – and to make it clear and easy to use. This consistency is important so that no matter who works on a school project, the brand remains recognizable.

Color was in important part of the work we did together – expanding and then defining the visual tone of the brand. The Balsam School already had a solid primary color palette and logo, but we gave them even more options and depth to play with by adding a rich, deep blue color to provide a contrast to the greens. Blue can also be associated with intellectual brands, and combining it with a more nature-focused green color gives the brand that balance of nature and education that Balsam was looking for. 

The result is a clean and consistent look and feel that can be easily applied to all of Balsam's marketing materials. This combination of colors, fonts, and logos helps to create a modern yet timeless look for Balsam, helping it stand out as a reliable and respected institution in Kelowna.

THE RESULTS

A fully developed brand ecosystem – with a brand guide as a tool for the school and its partners to use well into the future – is helping Balsam’s marketing team create more efficient, effective, and consistent messages and visuals for their school. By taking control of their brand, they are able to tell the story of their school in the community and set themselves up for ongoing growth – both as a brand and as a school of choice in Kelowna.

Metric Marketing creates results through data-driven big ideas. Read more of our success stories, learn more about the services we offer, or use the contact form below to get in touch with our team.

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