How Ice Cream Changed My (Marketing) Life ...Why This Sign Is Pure Genius...

By Ray Diffley posted 02-15-2017 20:35


Are you answering (not asking) THE key question to turn a prospect into a believer (applicant/matriculant) in your school?  Here’s how ice cream changed my (marketing) life:


As I walked down the cute village sidewalk in Lake Placid, NY on a Saturday with snow coming down, I was thinking, in addition to, this is a beautiful village: “it’s cold, really cold.” In fact, for anyone who knows me and my sweet tooth, you’d be shocked to think that I wasn’t actually thinking chocolate or ice cream. A rare moment indeed. But when my eyes locked in on that sidewalk sign…”it’s never too cold for ice cream”…they had me.

Here’s why:

A—I was not thinking about ice cream, but now I was. Important to note that it didn’t say: “buy ice cream” or “come to an ice cream open house” (although that’s not an awful idea in this space!) No, this sign was quite different.

B—If someone had suggested “want some ice cream?” or “Ice cream for sale”, the FIRST thing someone might say is indeed: “it’s too cold for ice cream” and the decision would be over (I’d pass…even with my sweet tooth.) So, what the creative director of ice cream consumption did, is answer that questioning voice in your head by saying “it’s never too cold for ice cream.” Brilliant. Just brilliant. I know this kind of approach is in the marketing books, and I’m pretty sure I heard Claude Anderson (Northfield Mount Hermon Director of Admission) say this 15 years ago, but why do we not do these things in our schools?


Not too far up the road another sign caught my attention.

LOVE IT! Honestly, either I’m a sucker or these signs did exactly what they needed to do to convert a critical consumer into a buyer. I, of course immediately, wondered why that shop was “awesome” and I stopped in my tracks and looked in the window. How much more interesting is that sign than one that just says “we’re closed?” Such a simple flip, right?!   I figured the person behind those signs, was the person behind the quality of ice cream or the merchandise in the store. I wanted to take a next step…and I did.

Admission professionals are the “signs for our schools.” Are we saying, asking or telling the right things? What are our “signs?” As AISAP continues to unfold its Educational Expos we want to answer these questions for families and get them to take the next step.


I’ll leave you with one question that comes to mind for me: “Do your kids love school? Ours do! Come find out why at our Educational Expo.” But please, no more generic “open house” advertisements…we are all much more creative than that!

Please share your ideas in the comment section below so that we can all benefit, or by all means, let me know privately how to lead the way when it comes to introducing families to our schools and transformational experiences. And please, take a risk, try something new and follow the advice we all give our students.

About Ray Diffley
Director of AISAP's Center for Admission
and Enrollment Management Leadership





02-24-2017 17:21

Spot on! We used the "Does your child love going to school every day?" line in a radio spot one year ago and received a tremendous response. I'm currently starting a transfer student campaign meant to entice talented local public high school students to rethink their direction and consider jumping into independent school for 10th or 11th grade. The communications plan includes exactly those kinds of self-searching questions, so this post was affirming! Thanks, Ray!

02-21-2017 15:26

Thanks Amy...LOVE that you've been using that sentiment in your efforts, I truly appreciate you sharing.  Eager to hear from more folks about messages that resonate with families.

02-21-2017 13:30

We've been using 'Does your son love school?' as our tagline for 4 years and its engaging both to families who have happy and unhappy sons...    I agree that "Open House" is hardly a call to action and has a vague residential real estate connection which is a tough association because most of our educational experiences cost as much as a house these days...