I come from a small, bucolic town in central New Hampshire – there’s a village bandstand, community church with white steeple, the works. It’s not quite Grover’s Corners, but close (one thing Thornton Wilder omitted from Our Town is how completely unnerving it is that everyone in town knows – and has an opinion on – your business almost before you do).
Once a year, however, the town is transformed from Clapboard Idyll to Biker Haven with the arrival of Motorcycle Week in the next town over. It used to be just Motorcycle Weekend, but a hog-happy mayor extended the festivities to a full nine days several years back.
Locals generally clear out during this time, which is difficult because one of the weekends always falls on Father’s Day, as well as the graduation weekends of many area high schools. It’s hard telling Grandma that there are no hotel rooms available to her for little Jeffrey’s graduation because the Duluth chapter of the Hell’s Angels beat her to it.
In any event, the area is now a sufficient attraction for bikers that there are year-round businesses catering to that specific market. One of them, which I drive by every time I bring the kids up to see their grandparents, is the Hawg’s Pen Café. I must pass by it at least three dozen times a year, and its name still strikes me as incongruous every time I do.
“Café” evokes refined images of cappuccino and croissants, but the Hawg’s Pen is clearly more of a beer-and-wings type place. Not once have I seen a Harley pulling out of there with a takeout box of brioche strapped to the sidecar.
I bring this up because a lot of child care centers are actually making the same sort of branding mistake as the Hawg’s Pen Café:
- Highly academic programs with websites full of typos and misspellings
- Centers with more than one logo and/or tagline (e.g., “We’re all about fun!” and “Learning in two languages!”)
- Promises of a highly structured curriculum coupled with a shockingly messy director’s office
Once you figure out what makes your program unique and special, it’s important to carry that message consistently throughout your marketing materials and your center itself.
These sorts of discrepancies can be hard to pick up on if you’re too close to them – sort of like your fantastic new glasses that actually make you look like Elton John in the Crocodile Rock years – so have a trusted friend or family member (preferably one who’s not already intimately acquainted with your program) give you an honest assessment.
Until then, see you at Bike Week. I’ll bring the brioche.