Ridley College

(Canadian Day and Boarding School)

Project: Brand Development and Enrollment Strategy

Partner: Turnaround Marketing Communications

As one of the oldest and most prestigious independent schools in Canada, Ridley College has educated generations of Canadians. This pre-k through postgraduate year boarding and day school in St. Catharines, Ontario, hired Andrea Jarrell and frequent partner Turnaround Marketing Communications to develop a brand campaign. Our goal was to define Ridley’s most advantageous market position for recruitment and advancement success and articulate compelling brand messages to help this Canadian legend strengthen its brand presence in U.S. and global markets and gain even more momentum at home. How to accomplish this? Start with a head of school from the British system and an admissions dean fresh from East Coast U.S. prep schools, and add marketing expertise and communications strategy.

The results of this project came in stages.

Brand Development

Brand building is a long-term process that takes community buy-in. After Jarrell/Turnaround developed the Ridley brand and story, they were enthusiastically embraced by the headmaster and board of governors. Next, the administration took ownership of it, and new materials were developed, including a "pocket primer" (pictured here), which was distributed at the brand rollout, led by the Jarrell/Turnaround team, to help internal constituents remember and absorb the brand messages. As Ridley began to use the new branding, the community learned to be consistent in its messaging and the benefits of a Ridley education became even clearer to all constituents.

Enrollment Strategy

Our goal was to help this Canadian legend strengthen its brand presence in U.S. and global markets and gain even more momentum at home. Ridley has a powerful story and heritage. To introduce the school, we created a “brand” book that offers a sweeping overview of the Ridley experience for prospective families, but that can also be used to generate loyalty and interest among donors and alumni.

The Ridley brand book tells the Ridley story in five “chapters”—Timeless Tradition, World Prep, Engaged Ridley, The Houses of Ridley, and A Legacy That’s Yours. Depending on the age of the prospective student, this introductory book is followed by either “Engaged Ridley: Where a Legacy Begins” about the Lower School or “World Prep: A Tradition, A School, A Ticket to the World” about the Upper School. Upper School prospects also receive “The Houses of Ridley: An Insider’s Guide for Day and Boarding Students to School Life.” Each of these books serve as a bump piece to keep communication open. The series also includes a light search/travel piece. 

During the first year that Ridley’s admission office and headmaster began using Ridley’s brand story in conversations, presentations, letters, and online, newly enrolled students increased 30 percent. During the second year, when Ridley had print materials in place with the new brand story, the school had an additional 19-percent increase in new student enrollment. 

The strategy behind Ridley success is featured in detail in “From Marketing Strategy to Brand Story: Telling the Story of Independent Education” by Andrea Jarrell (The NAIS Enrollment Management Handbook edited by Christine Hailer Baker; 2012; The National Association of Independent Schools).