Recently there have been a number of physical changes at GFS, from the little things like the placement of a rug with a giant school seal just inside our Main Hall, to the redecorating of the Scattergood Gym so that “Germantown Friends” appears on the padding. After the renovation of the cafeteria, every third table has our initials in blue. Our name is stamped all around campus. GFS has become a brand. Some argue that GFS has always been a brand, and that only just now are we efficiently marketing it.
The Advancement and Admissions offices have prepared a beautiful new viewbook, similar to mailings sent out by colleges, that will show prospective students what student life is like at GFS. The viewbook’s theme, “K Through Life,” is the new slogan that brands the school, but very simply. A foldout, with a bright orange background, reveals the Quaker testimonies, [but they are] renamed and re-interpreted. Integrity is now “Speak the Truth,” Equality is “Shine Together.” Even our Quaker testimonies are being rebranded.
Part of what distinguishes GFS from other private schools is our emphasis on learning, not facilities, and specifically Quaker learning. We pride ourselves on being different from Quaker schools that are not run by their own meeting. By creating a GFS brand, we seem to be straying from the Quaker testimonies, especially simplicity, that are at the root of the school. Signs have been put up all around campus. Why is there a need to put our name on blue signs all around campus and present it to the Germantown community?
However, advertising is what it takes to attract students and parents in a world that is based on image. For more than 20 years GFS has published a viewbook. Our new viewbook provides a glowing representation of our school, and was created by interviewing students and touring the campus. Updating the Scattergood and cafeteria, and placing our name around the school may help build GFS school spirit. We are a unique school that should be represented beautifully to prospective families.
But our Quaker spirit is bigger than a brand. We do not want to lose what is intangible about our school. And though we can, and maybe should, market ourselves better, we must remain aware that school spirit and Quaker testimonies cannot be captured by a logo. We are bigger, deeper, and richer than any brand, and we welcome people to come to our school and experience that. We believe that being a brand and being a Quaker school are not mutually exclusive.