Can Strategic Planning Research Inform Branding?


Stop! Don’t put all the research you’ve just performed for strategic planning on the shelf. If you’re feeling that institutional data should inform other critical institutional initiatives, your instincts are spot-on.

 Strategic planning produces a tremendous amount of information that can help your school in many ways, including in your branding efforts. In fact, as more and more institutions recognize that branding is key to their success, “branding” frequently becomes a goal of the strategic plan!


 Strategic planning and branding efforts should follow similar tracks (without seminal beginning and ending points), and many times they have intersecting paths. For instance, the analysis of primary and secondary methodologies guide strategies to move an institution forward toward specific and coordinated goals. Neither should be exclusive of the other. Rather, the information sources and instruments used to produce the data and analysis for these initiatives are very similar.

They typically include:

  • SWOT workshops.

  • Demographic studies.

  • Satisfaction surveys.

  • Focus groups.

  • Accreditation self-studies.

  • Economic impact studies.

  • And lots of committee work.

All these activities help to identify internal and external factors impacting your institution so you can better align your school with market demands.

The information cultivated for both strategic planning and branding is forward-thinking and aspirational. It considers the needs of future stakeholders and the climate of prospective markets. Your school’s vision and its brand will be more compelling when you’ve defined the benefits offered to the audiences that you have attracted, as well as those you aspire to attract. Take Wayne Gretzky’s approach and “skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”     


Whether you’re an independent day or boarding school, college or university, using all available research as a foundation for institutional decision-making translates to effectiveness, efficiency and economies that greatly benefit your school’s future.

The data you gather has far-reaching impact for your school. Don’t let such useful information end up on a shelf gathering dust. Take the opportunity to put your vision into action: integrate strategic planning research with your branding initiatives to more effectively reach institutional goals.

 Written by Steve Neitz, Lead Researcher at Creosote Affects

 Creosote Affects begins every partnership by thoroughly investigating existing data and research to better inform its branding work.

Emily Hajjar