If you have spent any time at the Underwood School in the past year, you’ve likely seen or heard the phrase 'The Underwood Way'. At our school, the principles of The Underwood Way guide who we are. It’s how we do things. It’s our ‘brand’.
Branding is a marketing practice that has spread in recent years from the business world into other areas. The idea of branding has grown proportionally to the increased popularity of social media, where it is often a focus for not only businesses, but individuals as well. Elizabeth Smithson, in her 2015 article on Brandingmag.com, explains the importance of ‘branding’ for a business. “Branding,” wrote Smithson, “by definition, is a marketing practice in which a company creates a name, symbol, or design that is easily identifiable as belonging to the company.” Smithson adds, “Branding is important because not only is it what makes a memorable impression on customers it allows your customers and clients to know what to expect from your company.”
Approximately one year ago, Underwood students and staff setout to create our own brand. Students were asked to work in groups to generate ideas for a new school motto and logo. The winning student groups were brought together as our ‘design team’. They worked with graphic design and marketing specialists from BHG Viking in Garrison, doing a phenomenal job of blending ideas and visions together to create a brand that represents Underwood School. Walk through the main doors of our school and the first thing you’ll likely notice is the large Underwood Way sign, sharing our expectation that all who enter our school strive to “Be the best U, you can be,” by being responsible, respectful, and ready.
The team defined what each of these ideals means to us as Underwood Comets: Being respectful means thinking and acting in a way that demonstrates a genuine care for the feelings and well-being of others and yourself. Being responsible means doing the things you are expected to do, doing them to the best of your ability, and accepting the results, good and bad, of your actions. Being ready means having a positive mindset for an activity, action or situation.
With the support of local businesses, 500 Underwood Way t-shirts were printed. Pep rallies were held to unveil our new Underwood Way logo and to present every Underwood student with a t-shirt.
Each week our principals select several students who have been observed by school staff implementing the concepts of the Underwood Way brand. Together, they make a phone call home from the principal's office, known as a Comet Call. It's a rewarding way to celebrate students who have demonstrated being responsible, respectful, and ready.
The design team isn't finished yet; work continues to ensure that The Underwood Way directs the culture throughout our school. Visit Underwood School and you will not only see it, you will hear it and feel it too. The Underwood Way is becoming more than just a brand; it’s becoming the embodiment of our culture.
Planning has begun for a month-long Underwood Way bingo game beginning the week of Thanksgiving and continuing through Christmas break. The team is working hard to finalize preparations for an Underwood Way school store. And, the first Wednesday of every month has been designated ‘Way Wednesday’ – short for Underwood Way Wednesday. On Way Wednesday everyone is encouraged to wear his/her Underwood Way t-shirt.
Ultimately, we hope that The Underwood Way will spread beyond the school walls and become ingrained in our communities too. Anyone can join The Underwood Way and be a part of our respectful, responsible, and ready brand. Getting started is easy; stop by the school and pick-up a free-will donation Underwood Way t-shirt. Wear it to our next home sporting event, wear it around town, or wear it on Way Wednesday! Most importantly, encourage and celebrate those who strive to be respectful, responsible, and ready. After all, that's our brand, that's the Underwood Way.