Branding MBA schools

IMG_8953Last month, I presented a workshop at the EFMD Conference, a gathering of MBA schools from around the world. I opened the three day conference by speaking about the power of storytelling and the need for story making environments.

Over the course of an hour, I shared with the heads of some of the world’s top business schools the idea that in branding what we feel is often more important than what we think.

Storytelling has a direct connection with our emotions – our stories focus on our memories, our dreams and our sensory experiences. I wanted to paint a picture for the room that allowed them to feel my story first before I asked them to feel theirs. The remarkable thing that happened was that I actually felt the energy in the room as I did this. By being vulnerable and sharing parts of my story that are personal, I could feel the eyes in the room connecting with what I was sharing. I knew there were likely others who had experienced what I was sharing, and this was connecting them to me in a way that I could not have done with facts and figures.

After I shared my story, I was able to guide them through my Brand Narrative process with the understanding that being open and sharing something meaningful does in fact create a connection. I had people coming up to me over the three days reflecting back what I shared. It mattered to them. They developed an emotional connection to my story, therefore they developed an emotional connection to my brand.

Storytelling isn’t a science – it’s an emotional outpouring.

It’s a chance to be seen and heard, a chance to share something that matters and to hear something equally important back. To tell stories is to live and breath, and yet somehow we have lost that when it comes to talking about our work. When we first meet someone, we have a short amount of time to capture their imagination. We want them to connect with the story we are sharing, especially when it’s a story about something as intangible as a business school.

When branding a business school, like branding a business itself, you need to gather as many stories as you can and look for patterns and themes, similarities and differences. Being able to capture those stories and create a ‘meta-narrative’ is what I do with brand mythology.

Mythology transcends time and place. It holds the stories we all relate to, because at some point in time, we created that myth. A business can tap into that power – they can create their own mythology, a collection of stories that people have in and around what they do and why they matter.

Branding a business school needs to be about more than just academics. It’s about possibility and it’s about change, it’s about overcoming a challenge and the desire to make your life better. That is the ultimate mythology = The Hero’s Journey. It exists in all of us, and it definitely needs to exist in the brand of a business school.

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