Changing Worlds – Lucy Horsefield, Chief Operating Officer

In autumn 2010 we embarked upon a very exciting mission, to ‘audit’ the IH brand and to undertake a branding project that would result in a new brand identity for the International House World network. In many ways, 12 months on, we are still at the beginning of this journey. We have successfully launched the new visual brand identity for the IH brand, but we know that there is so much more that can be done to raise the profile of our brand and to really communicate effectively what International House means to staff and students alike.

The most important lesson this process has taught us so far is that a brand is SO much more than a logo; and therein lies the challenge! When we first met with our branding agency 12 months ago one of the questions they asked us was “what does it mean to be International House?” As you can imagine, even within our office we realised that we had slightly differing opinions and so we began the rather difficult process of trying to put into words the ‘essence’ of International House. This became especially complex when we started to think of what International House means to a teacher or a school owner and how it is different to what it means for a student. However, most important perhaps was to look ahead and think about what we would like the essence of our brand to mean in the future. What are we striving for?

It would be easy to dismiss the process we are going through as something that only marketing staff and managers would be interested in – sometimes the true value of such an exercise can get lost within the ‘marketing speak’. Therefore it was really important during the brand audit to involve IH people from all areas of our network and schools. We wanted to start a conversation about ‘being IH’ because the values and essence of our brand are just as fundamental to teachers and school administrators as they are to directors and marketers. As part of our brand audit we asked school directors to circulate an ‘IH brand survey’ to all of their staff and, as a result, we received invaluable input from teachers, administrators, DOSes, sales managers and school directors. This input, plus many hours of hard work and discussion, has led us to identify 6 core values for International House and a brand essence for the future, as depicted in the diagram below.

What is most inspiring and wonderful about this diagram (affectionately known as the IH brand onion) is that we know that across our network of 150 schools there are people who live and breathe these values on a daily basis. As I hope you can see from the articles in this journal the values and essence of the IH Brand really mean something. We can’t wait to explore them further in the coming months.