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What a brand architect means to me – Rev. Fr. Trevor G. Martin


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Rev. Fr. Trevor Martin made ‘St. Peter’s College Inc.’ a strong brand 

 


I still remember the day that my mentor Rev. Fr. Joe Wickramasinghe bid adieu to St. Peter’s College; the thought that flashed through my mind was that we would never see this calibre of administrator at college again, given that Fr. Joe ran the entity just like a business whilst keeping the strong Catholic value system. Then walked in Fr. Trevor G. Martin who took the brand ‘St. Peter’s College Inc.’ to a high ground and created a new leadership grain in the school arena using some of the most modern techniques of brand building. 

Let me do a deep dive on the five-year performance of the brand architect Trevor G. Martin.

Rev. Fr. Trevor G. Martin

Trained at Aquinas College Trevor G. Martin went on to be a graduate of the University of Peradeniya. He obtained entry to the University of London where he read for his Masters in Education. Coming back to Sri Lanka he was appointed to Layola College, where he made it one of the most sought after schools in Negombo. Then stepping into St. Peter’s College, he demonstrated to Sri Lanka how a school can be given leadership to be run like a ‘Inc.,’ making it one of the strongest brands in the education industry. 

Building a strong brand

To me Rev. Fr. Trevor Martin’s success was that he brought life to the brand ‘St. Peter’s College’ by understanding the DNA and clearly driving the vibes to the target groups like school children, parents and teachers which brought out the best in any project. 

If I am to explain this point, a simple ‘annual school concert’ was not staged in the school hall but in the grounds in a setting like a ‘international musical show’ where the stage was erected three feet from the ground with an iron bar casing and the most modern lighting/sounds systems with giant screens showing the events on stage via a drone. It was just like an Ed Sheeran performance in Singapore. The event was themed giving a personality and life that sure motivated a small child performing on stage and the teachers who trained them whilst making a parent realise the potential of their child.

From a strictly marketing perspective the brand captured the hearts and minds of the audience demonstrating how a brand communicated the values with a powerful voice contributing to the equity of the mother brand – St. Peter’s College; the brand architect being Trevor G. Martin clearly focusing on the end game with a clear positioning in the consumer mind. To me, it was one of the best cases in point that explains the power of marketing; in this case building a brand in a country just like Nike, Signal, Khomba or Dialog.

What is a brand?

Let’s get deeper into this interesting subject – brands and how Rev. Fr. Trevor made St. Peter’s Inc. such a strong performer. 

To me, a brand is all about choice, especially when it comes to marketing an ‘education brand’ given that there is so much of share of voice (SOV) that is freely available, be it via word of mouth communication via school children, sports team visibility or endorsements from outstanding students/sportsman. Brands today compete in such a crowded and noisy environment, how one is heard and remembered has continuously intrigued me. I believe that a great brand is built on a compelling idea that anchors the consumer’s attention and loyalty by filling an unmet or unsatisfied need, which is what brand St. Peter’s College did under the brand architect Trevor G. Martin. 

Be it winning the Tarbat Cup by the athletes, rugby team coming out victorious in the schools arena or a swimmer/karateka winning a South Asian gold medal and making it to global rankings, this could not have been done if not for the ‘St. Peter’s Inc.’ mentality by the brand architect Trevor G. Martin who infused new blood by attracting top talent into St. Peter’s and coaches being paid fat salaries for results to be achieved. In other words KPI-based operational efficiency. This same model was seen in the education stream which led to outstanding achievement in the education front, namely O’ levels and A’ levels and university entrants.

When ‘St. Peter’s Inc.’ went one step further by building strong sub brands in sports, studies or events and combining sharp communications to build a stronger identity in the consumer’s mind, this actually added stature to the mother – St. Peter’s College – which is the skill of Rev. Fr. Trevor Martin. An absolute modern-day Rector. 

The brand DNA

If I move to a global brand like Nike to take this discussion to a new terrain, my mind goes to the famous press ad headline which said ‘There is no finish line’. This essentially encapsulates the Nike brand’s DNA. Nike symbolises an unreachable destination in pursuit of physical fitness and wellness. The idea is both inspirational to a universal audience seeking personal betterment. Overtime, a great brand idea doesn’t change; only its expression does. Renewing and refreshing the expression to ensure continuing relevance is a challenging journey.

A Sri Lankan example that comes to my mind is my favourite brand Dettol, which I managed for Sri Lanka and in the South Asian region, has today launched many variants of soap, plasters and hand sanitisers and in the future might launch diapers, prickly heat powder and maybe even creams, but the DNA that characterises Dettol remains – germ protection. This reinforces the idea that a brand’s promise does not change but only that its expression does. 

We see similar thinking in the five-year tenure of Trevor G. Martin on the brand ‘St. Peter’s Inc.’  The brand has performed with outstanding achievement in core areas like studies, sports and events – School Sports Meet and Prize Giving or for that matter the ‘Colours Night’ cutting out a clearer image of the mother brand.  But the beauty of the way the mother brand was communicated by the brand architect Trevor G. Martin, be it the giant LED screen at the entrance of the school or the ‘Peterite Walk,’ was the ‘expression of St. Peter’s Inc.’ The communication was focused to the changing lifestyle of the student/parent but never moving away from its DNA of a Catholic school with distinctive values. 

This is what differentiates a strong brand from the herd to my mind. It could not have been achieved unless for the disciplined thinking and gold standard execution expected from the brand architect Trevor G. Martin. 

Right connection

Let me take another case in point: the brand Surf washing soap powder. The brand is all about the ‘Champion Mother’ and yesterday’s mom believed that old-fashioned mothers have dirty kids; modern parenting is all about good mothers who allow their kids to get dirty. Hence a modern-day mum will allow kids to be themselves whilst trusting Surf to do the task of removing the dirt from their kids’ clothes.

I believe that ensuring that you make the right connection with the right consumer at the right place and at the right time is a critical component of keeping the idea compelling and contemporary, which is what Surf as a brand has successfully done. I guess how St. Peter’s College every two months comes out with an outstanding sub brand, be it a sports performance, education achievement, or a branded sports meet/annual concert, has developed a right connection with the students, parents, teachers and community which has unleashed the power of brand ‘St. Peter’s Inc.’ This is what smart brand architects do which we call ‘touch point’ marketing. The opening of the new pavilion overlooking the grounds is the best example that I can cite to demonstrate this point ‘right connection,’ which are concepts practiced by Trevor G. Martin. 

The promise

Another outstanding quality that strong brands deliver is called ‘the promise’. 

To explain this point, let me take a globally exciting example from the world of perfumes – a brand called Axe. The brand Axe perfume works because it is a rite of passage: from feeling like boys to feeling like men. So what the Axe brand does is help reinforce masculinity and makes them believe they can attract the Cleopatras of the world. This is the science of brand building at its best. But the real challenge for a brand is that the product must deliver a promise, which is what makes a brand strong, with a loyal following trailing behind.

If we draw a parallel what we see of a brand architect like Trevor G. Martin bring out from an education brand ‘promise’ is to bring out is the talent of a child. In the last five years, St. Peter’s College has had outstanding performances in 21 sports and in all forms of education examinations which tells a parent ‘St. Peter’s College can bring out the talent in your child,’ making them not just shine at the national level but internationally too. This ‘promise’ is what a school Rector finally sells to a parent (the target customer) and a child (the target consumer). The brilliance of Trevor G. Martin is that on both fronts he has delivered the ‘promise’ that makes him an outstanding performer to my mind. Hence, we see how brand ‘St. Peter’s Inc.’ has absorbed the key ingredients of a strong brand. 

New media

Let me now share a thought on the spiralling new media that is gaining currency by marketers and how it was used to promote ‘St. Peter’s College Inc.’

In today’s world, whether it’s via mainline media, the internet that includes vehicles like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or for that matter just traditional email, has now changed the name of the game where brands are built. At St. Peter’s College the brand architect Trevor G. Martin used all such methods to reach the ‘donors’ (old Peterites) in different parts of the world, from Australia to Canada, from Dubai to London or from Washington DC to San Francisco. If need be he takes a flight and meets them personally and makes PowerPoint presentations to raise funding for the key projects of the schools. 

The amazing talent of Trevor G. Martin was that he introduced smart boards to college, a state-of-the-art laboratory and a fully-equipped medical centre, apart from the revolutionary approach to winning in the sports field or education which came about by wrapping around new media in running the school just like a business. 

In the case of outside-home initiatives, the communication tools like point of sale material have been replaced by tri-vision LCD alongside the road that gives avenue for multi-dimensional salience and relevance. The brand Dialog use them well to drive consumer connectivity. 

Similarly we see how the brand architect Trevor G. Martin launched a giant LED wall at the entrance to the school that we seldom see in any other school which advertises and publicises the key achievements of the school’s children. This motivates students for higher performance and motivates the teachers and coaches for stronger support. Hence we see how Trevor G. Martin integrates modern media into the working model of a ‘semi private school’ that has produced an amazing performance in the last five years.

Conclusion 

To conclude what we see is that whilst the old idea was to give a brand awareness and salience on media, the new way is to give it some buzz and experience. This is exactly what Trevor G. Martin has done to ‘St. Peter’s College Inc.’ This is what makes his tenure outstanding as the Rector of St. Peter’s College. Now the challenge is how the same spirit and trend can be continued. 

[The author was the Head Prefect and Peterite Gold Winner. He twice won the ‘Best Marketer Award’ in Sri Lanka and the coveted ‘Abdul Kalam Pride of the Nation Award’ in 2019. He is the only Sri Lankan to have been the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) and Sri Lanka Tourism. Dr. Athukorala is the President/CEO of the foremost Artificial Intelligence company Clootrack – Sri Lanka, Maldives and Pakistan. The thoughts are strictly his personal views.]


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