Marketing an English-language institution

To promote an English language institution, we need to get to the core of why people in a certain geographic region learn English as a foreign language. Why do parents enroll their kids in English courses? Why do youngsters bother learning English? Back in the days, I started learning English at the age of 10 entirely out of my own initiative. I knew English was ‘the ticket’ out of a struggling post-communist country and into future job opportunities.

In case of Japan, though, the rationale is quite different. For Japanese people, being able to communicate in English is not a necessity. It’s an optional skill. Japanese people are generally interested in learning about other cultures and wish to communicate in English but rarely do they voluntarily embark on an English-learning journey due to the complexity of the language. Others stay away from English as part of their self-image and feelings of separateness and uniqueness. Then, why is it that some Japanese opt for learning English as a second language? For some, English helps cultivate the 21st century skills – an open mindset, flexible attitude, respect for diversity, and curiosity about other nations and perspectives. For the rest, knowing English is associated with social status, sophistication, advancement, and prestige.

Marketing a product or a service means reaching out to two types of consumers, the ones who have discovered a certain need and the ones who must be led into recognizing a need. In the latter case, we need to help people understand the reason why being able to communicate in English is a necessity and how our service can fulfill this need. We need to entice people into undertaking an English language course (the tool) to develop their English skills (the goal) in order to satisfy their needs.

Is taking English language lessons needed in order to prepare for the new Japanese school system’s regimen (where English will become a mandatory subject)? Does globalization require preparing the next generation of Japanese children to be more internationally minded? And this is where your brand positioning comes in. Is your English language institution helping students sit their examinations? Is your organization committed towards educating global citizens? What sets you apart from your competitors and why your target audience should choose your services?

What English language institutions are selling is not English courses. They are making and selling promises, such as exciting new experiences, new friendships, extensive traveling, and so on.

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*If your school wants to promote its brand, services and events through appealing marketing materials, I can be reached at: maya.kenova@gmail.com

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