Case Study: Determining a Private School’s Brand Positioning and Equity in the Face of Growing Competition to Increase Enrollment


A private Nursery-12th grade school faced growing competition in its local area due to increased availability of new options, such as charter and for-profit schools, as well as a new city program that provided no-cost public pre-school to city residents. The school wanted to conduct a research study to determine its position in the marketplace relative to the competition to guide its strategic plan and increase application and enrollment rates.  The following were the key objectives of the study:

  • Understand the school’s brand equity in the marketplace relative to the competition, including the key characteristics that parents associate with the school and how they drive school selection, commitment and the school’s reputation
  • Profile current and prospective parents using a national segmentation scheme developed by Rockbridge that segments parents based on their educational motivations, beliefs and needs for their children
  • Assess parents’ price sensitivity to tuition levels and how they impact the school’s market position and enrollment by key segments


Rockbridge conducted an online survey with parents of current students at the school, as well as prospective parents in the local area to address the three core objectives of the study.  The study included the following:

  • Brand positioning and equity of schools in the target market – Using Rockbridge’s brand development model, we asked questions about parents’ awareness, familiarity, consideration, and overall impression of each the schools in their local area. We also assessed each school on key characteristics that could affect parents’ decision process when choosing a school for their children.  Our analysis determined the brand image and positioning of each school and identified unique opportunity areas for our client to strengthen their school’s image on aspects that were proven to affect parents’ brand perceptions using a key driver analysis.

  • Parent segmentation – In a previous study, Rockbridge used its MaxSeg™ solution to develop an attitudinal segmentation of U.S. parents based on their motivations, needs, and beliefs about K-12th grade education for their children. Five parent segments emerged from our analysis that have unique mindsets and demographic profiles in the market.  A short list of questions proven to predict the segments was used in this study to classify current and prospect parents of the school into one of the segments.  The school learned the types of parents the school attracts currently, as well as segments of parents that were less likely to choose the school.  The analysis suggested communications strategies and message themes that would resonate with these prospective parents based on their attitudinal profiles.
  • Price sensitivity analysis for tuition rates – We also conducted a tuition elasticity analysis based on price sensitivity analysis to understand parents’ perceptions of private school tuition. The analysis helped the school understand parents’ tuition thresholds and perceptions of future tuition increases.


Based on the findings, the school learned how it was positioned in the market relative to the competition and the unique attributes to communicate to the market to increase its reputation, differentiate itself, and drive applications and enrollment.  It learned parents’ tuition thresholds, which implied that tuition rates and increases needed to be justified with better communication of the value proposition.  And finally, the school developed a better understanding of its current parents’ needs and underlying motivations for sending their child to the school, as well as the types of parents it was not attracting so it could determine target segments for future marketing and communications strategies.

This is just one example of a school using our approach.  Rockbridge has conducted this study with dozens of schools across the country to help guide their strategic plan and increase enrollment.

Learn more about Rockbridge’s Education practice.