2015 Excellence in Education Spotlight: Marketing Innovation at Penrose Academy

MODERN SALON's Excellence in Education annual recognition program celebrates leading cosmetology schools, highlighting innovative programs and best practices in eight categories and two divisions (single location and multi-unit schools). The 2015 Excellence in Education honorees were announced October 24 at the American Association of Cosmetology Schools conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Among 38 schools recognized, top honorees were named in each category.

In this Excellence in Education Spotlight series, MODERN SALON connects with each of the top honorees to further explore programs and how schools are collaborating to develop the future of professional beauty. Here, a closer look at the 2015 top honoree in Marketing Innovation, single location.

Penrose Academy’s marketing and creative development is led by co-owner Burt Kohler and Education and Marketing Manager Caroline Winkler. The duo works with an outside branding agency to keep driving growth through marketing projects that are focused, flexible, current and effective.

The revamped penrose.edu site.

Brand Masters

Penrose Academy knows exactly who it represents and how it's different from competitors. So when it comes to marketing the school and all it has to offer, the creative team takes a three-pronged approach: online, offline and on-site.

This year, a major marketing move online was to launch a new website with a new URL: penrose.edu, moving away from penroseacademy.com. The renaming of the site was a strategic move to optimize the use of a .edu web address, thereby enhancing SEO.

“Google honors it in more practical way,” Jill Kohler, Penrose Academy co-owner, explains. “All the analytics and SEO ranks .edu higher.”

The new site was also launched in an optimized format that allows for easy viewing on tablet or mobile devices, along with high-resolution display settings to allow for high-quality viewing on retina displays.

When the site launched, Penrose’s creative team was ready to go with printed materials to complement the site, an important detail Kohler says is sometimes overlooked.

“Have you ever gone to a restaurant’s website and then when you go to eat there, it doesn’t match?” Kohler asks. “Or you go to an amazing store and its online presence is weak.”

Visitors to Penrose or its site will always find continuity of the brand. Printed collateral was redesigned to reflect the launch of the new website, including branded colors and icons for each of Penrose’s offered programs. Menus, postcards, brochures, print ads, staff/student business cards and other various campaigns and marketing materials were all updated with high-resolution photography and a more refined Penrose “P” logo.

The school itself was not overlooked in the rebranding, either. As the on-site part of the marketing strategy, students will get the same vibe in the school as the do on the website.

“The facility has visually evolved,” Kohler says. “We’ve added the Penrose logo and mission statement along with high-resolution image decals. We are not the cluttered, messy type—we have a lot of big, white walls, and use the same font and messaging on them as on our website.”

No detail was overlooked. Even the curriculum on the iPad is updated with new logos and imagery.

“We had to revamp every piece,” Kohler says.

While Penrose competes with many schools—some well-known—Kohler maintains that small businesses matter and being a more intimate, personal school is part of their core brand.

“We point out we have a flagship location, and that’s it,” she says. “We don’t sell products or have a spa—we are who we are and that sets us apart.”

Kohler advices anyone who wants to amp up their marketing game to talk to a teenager.

“Give the name of your school to a teen and see if they can find everything you want a prospective student to find—your phone number, tuition, etc.,” she says. “Today’s students want everything at their fingertips—if they can find everything they need, you’re doing well.”

She also recommends putting all your materials through a litmus test both online and offline.

“For example, nobody here is allowed to grab a piece of paper and slap it on a door saying the toilet is out of order; that’s sloppy," Kohler says. "We have a laminated piece of paper with our logo and a polite explanation.”

Know that your brand is key, and if you stray, it shows.

“Our feel is modern, contemporary and clean,” Kohler says. “’Home sweet home’ cross-stitched in a picture frame on your desk is not OK. Everything has to fit in with us.”  

Penrose owner Jill Kohler addresses students at a weekly assembly.


School Spotlight: Penrose Academy

Location: Scottsdale, AZ

Owners: Jill and Burt Kohler

Established: 2006

Average enrollment: 150

Best student perk: "Our assembly--once a week, for two hours,” Kohler says. “It’s usually with me, but sometimes a keynote speaker or guest artist comes. We do celebrations for 15 minutes, then 15 minute of updates. From 9:30 to 11 a.m., we tackle a topic. Today we talked about how to be grateful. Every challenge at school I usually solve at my assembly. It’s where we gather. People are happier and know we care. A new student recently ran for student council and said, ‘I want to absorb Penrose and reflect it back to the world.’ That’s our point of difference.”   

AACS member? Yes; joined in 2006.

What is one big idea you've adopted from an AACS event or talking to another AACS member? “’Penrose Progress’—we launched it a couple years ago. It’s a monthly review of students’ data—like a dashboard for students to know how they’re doing. Another AACS member shared the idea.” 

What's one major improvement that you're planning for 2016? “The addition of four new short programs (600 hours or less). So you could be an esthetician and stack on a laser or advanced makeup or nail component. They’re stackable credentials so students will be more employable.”

What schools or educators inspire you? “Ann Mincey—she never slips or misses her message. She’s never off point, but still feels real. Also Howard Hafetz and Sidney Barry.” 

What does your Excellence in Education recognition mean to you? “It means I’m on track—it’s important reinforcement. It also allows me to celebrate my team.”  

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