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Tonbridge wins AMCIS Award 2022 for ‘Branding Impact’

Tonbridge has won a prestigious national award for its ‘Only Connect’ branding and marketing campaign.

In a ceremony on Monday 9 May, the School was announced as the winner for Branding Impact at the annual AMCIS (Admissions, Marketing and Communications in Independent Schools) Awards.

Now in their third year, these awards celebrate the work of communications teams in running distinctive and successful campaigns which have a significant impact on schools and their communities. This year has seen the highest number of entries to date.

In choosing the winning entry, the AMCIS Awards judges found that, with Only Connect, “Tonbridge has created an exceptional brand”.

The judges added: “It neatly encapsulates a very clear and exciting identity … The involvement of its whole school community indicates Tonbridge’s understanding of the importance of building an authentic brand, and the resulting impact, as measured by an increase in visits, demonstrates just how exciting and effective this brand is.”

Richard Burnett, the School’s Director of Admissions, said: “The first step was to explore what makes Tonbridge unique, something we researched with pupils, parents, teachers, feeder schools and governors. We also involved as many staff as we could, so they felt like this brand was theirs.

“This led us to conclude that, at the heart of the Tonbridge brand, is a dictum coined by the famous Old Tonbridgian, E.M.Forster: ‘Only Connect’. Forster was encouraging the reader to make the connection between the head and the heart, between thought and feelings. Only then, so his argument goes, can we live a life of purpose and become a force for good.

“At Tonbridge, we believe that making connections of all kinds – intellectual, cultural, social and emotional – is a vital part of the rounded, grounded education we deliver.” 

The next step in the campaign was to create visuals which were strong enough to hold these contrasting qualities side by side on a page or screen.

Haime & Butler, Tonbridge’s creative design agency, achieved this by using traditional line drawings, splitting each in half, and setting them against a fresh, contemporary colour palette. 

The School also worked with a production company, Affixxius, in making two short films which placed Only Connect on the screen. The first brought photos ‘to life’ by utilising complex parallaxing techniques, with Tonbridge’s Headmaster, James Priory, providing the film’s narration. 

At the opening of the film, Mr Priory asks: “What makes any one school different from another?” The answer, he reveals, is people. “Pupils of all kinds, staff of all kinds, parents of all kinds, all with a unifying characteristic: to forge an unbreakable connection, between the intellectual and the human.”  

The second film was equally imaginative, showing a Tonbridge pupil excitedly getting ready for school. 

Mr Burnett added: “The proof of the pudding is that, following the launch, we have seen a record number of visits to the School. We’ve been welcoming large numbers of parents to our in-person Open Days and have assessed hundreds of boys for potential entry.”

In total there were six awards made by AMCIS, for schools achieving impact in the areas of Branding; Digital; Partnership / Outreach; Admissions Initiative; Small Budget, and Communications.

Pictured above and below: Various parts of the Only Connect campaign, including print and digital advertisements, brochure pages and marketing materials.

Pictured immediately below: Richard Burnett, seated centre, with the School's Admissions and Communications teams; and James Priory, Headmaster, with the AMCIS 2022 trophy for Branding Impact.