Episode 013

How Holberton Grew From One Campus To Nine In Just Four Years

Many changes occurring in the education space can be attributed to the rise of vocational schools and bootcamps.

As the new kids on the block, alternatives to traditional colleges must go the extra mile to reach prospective students. Proving the unique value of your school, however, is a lot harder with more direct competitors popping up everywhere you turn. Vocational schools and bootcamps tend to get so caught up in expanding their reach that they ignore the need to differentiate themselves from the pack.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • The difference between brand and marketing
  • Why some coding schools grow faster than others
  • How to demonstrate core values through your brand identity

This week, I spoke to Amandine Aman, the Director of Marketing and Brand at Holberton School. In 2016, Holberton began as a single campus in San Francisco. Fast forward to 2020, when the two-year software engineering and coding school now boasts 9 campuses across the globe. That includes 4 schools in Colombia, 1 school in Tunisia, and its 2 newest schools in Tulsa and New Haven. How did Holberton achieve such explosive growth in less than 4 years? A good guess is Amandine’s ability to show prospective students why they should choose her school over the many others vying for their enrollment.

Why Do Some Schools Grow Much Faster Than Others?

As a branding expert, it’s no surprise that Amandine was quick to bring up brand positioning and messaging when asked about Holberton’s growth. Her team took the time to solidify Holberton’s core values during the school’s infancy. This allowed Holberton to direct their marketing efforts to the right people while emphasizing the school’s most unique advantages.

Having a fully-developed brand identity made the corresponding content much easier to create. In just a few months, Holberton had a completely new website, logo, tagline, and messaging strategy. Holberton’s international efforts were also fueled by Amandine’s experience as Uber’s former Head of Global Marketing. It was here where she learned the stark differences between marketing to international and local audiences.

What Is The Difference Between Brand and Marketing?

Marketers like to act. They prefer to devote more time to putting plans into action, and less time to the actual planning process. This often causes marketers to neglect the importance of branding, Amandine said. Shortly after starting her job at Holberton, she noticed that the marketing content of most coding schools and bootcamps looked extremely similar. Some of them were even using the same stock photos and pedaling the same, generic message: “Pick us because we’re the best.”

Branding allows marketing content to stand out. When developing Holberton’s brand identity, Amandine and her team discussed what makes their students feel like they belong at this school, as opposed to a top competitor. Anyone can post core values on their website. Prospective students, however, probably won’t care unless you also make a conscious effort to demonstrate those values.

How To Demonstrate Your School’s Core Values

One of Holberton’s core values is community. Thanks to Amandine and her team, Holberton’s website effectively portrays an environment where students truly feel at home. Not too long ago, the team even ran a “Thankful” campaign to put students at the forefront so they could share what they love most about Holberton.

This segues into rule number one for genuine and authentic content: raw interactions with current students. Instead of stock images or obviously-edited photos, schools should be using real photos of students in class or just going about their lives. Amandine also suggests taking advantage of student-made art. After all, no one understands campus culture better than the students themselves.

Put Students At The Forefront Of Your Content

Content stands out when it captures the personalities of the student body. This way, website visitors can quickly discern if they can or cannot relate to the school’s brand identity. But there can be no brand identity without an ideal student. As long as your ideal student belongs to a growing community, you won’t have to worry about alienating too many people with your content.

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