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As the nation’s first all-girls’ Catholic school — founded almost 50 years before America — Ursuline Academy of New Orleans established a legacy of firsts: the nation’s first female pharmacist, first female photographer, and more.

But Ursuline hadn’t kept up with communicating its girl power of today. That’s when the school partnered with Zehno to elevate its marketing through powerful branding.

The “blaze brighter” creative concept encourages every girl to blaze her own trail, like generations of Ursuline women before, and to reach her personal best.

The new brand also maps out the school’s distinctive project-based learning approach and explains why Ursuline is the only school in its marketplace to treat STEM and the arts as equals. The brand casts the school’s strategic messages as easy-to-remember slogans that everyone from students to trustees can rally behind.

Ursuline Academy of New Orleans


  • Differentiate the educational experience — and elevate Ursuline’s academic reputation — in a crowded independent school market.
  • Shift the discussion from Ursuline’s musty history to its modern-day trailblazing spirit.
  • Use video, the preferred channel for many of today’s audiences, to reflect Ursuline’s strengths and brand.


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Increased apps and interest

Admissions applications jumped 24% in the first four months. Open House registration increased 33% for elementary grades.

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Improved retention

More honors middle school students are making Ursuline their first-choice school and staying for high school.

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The “blaze brighter” campaign won five gold awards from the Brilliance Awards and the Educational Advertising Awards.

Ursuline Academy of New Orleans
Ursuline Academy of New Orleans
Ursuline Academy of New Orleans

Getting inside the classroom

How our students learn: It’s what parents care about most — and what schools have the hardest time explaining.

Ursuline’s emphasis on project-based learning, beginning at age 1 and stretching through high school, stands out in New Orleans. This learning approach is meaningful to parents, but only if they understand how it’s different than old-fashioned homework.

Another differentiator: Treating STEM and the arts as equals differentiates Ursuline in a market where competitor schools focus on one or the other. Ursuline’s curricular balance produces confident and flexible thinkers who go on to become state senators, Fulbright scholars, inventors, C-suite leaders and more.

To communicate how students learn, the new brand steps inside the classroom with specific examples. Many shots feature team-based scenes with girls collaborating on STEM and arts projects. Whether building robots or acting onstage, Ursuline students are developing all parts of their brains.

Other photos illustrate the concepts learned from specific projects. For example, a high school project where students recreate popular board games with easy-grip pieces for nursing home residents mixes design thinking with engineering. The project is stylishly photographed from above to strategically put the viewer inside the moment. These still life photos help prospects visualize concepts students are learning, and they communicate “hands-on” without resorting to that education cliché.

Making images say more

Instead of just checking off typical admissions facts, Ursuline’s new brand video featured on the school’s new admissions microsite zeroes in on the school’s trailblazing spirit.

With cinematic imagery and a pumped-up soundtrack, the video nails the personality of Ursuline students: curious, creative, confident, caring. The video illustrates the school’s STEM/arts balance across every age, with music compositions, “Shark Tank” presentations and coding projects among the featured examples.

Hand lettered messages — part of the brand’s illustration-heavy style — are peppered throughout. (Margie Tillman, illustrator) Customized props like megaphones and flags carry the school’s key messages forward without seeming pedantic or preachy. (Students helped create some of the props — like a cardboard sailing ship big enough to carry several people.)

To maximize quality and long-term storytelling capability, stills and video were shot simultaneously. A comprehensive photo shoot kicked off with a casting call to uncover the best on-brand stories and personalities.

The resulting photos range from environmental shots of students learning together (Jonathan Chapman, John Fontana, photographer & director) to black-and-white portraits (Daymon Gardner, photographer) brimming with confidence. And although it was complicated to produce, the shoot yielded enough assets to feed a year of print, digital and social media needs.

Ursuline Academy of New Orleans
Ursuline Academy of New Orleans
Ursuline Academy of New Orleans

What Zehno did

  • Brand audit and strategic recommendations.
  • Brand platform.
  • Brand vision.
  • Flagship content including profiles and photo shoot.
  • Admissions campaign: microsite, video, viewbooks, brochures, ads, signage and more.
Ursuline Academy of New Orleans

Tips for your team

  1. Send your photo shoots into overdrive. Shoot stills and video simultaneously to feed all your channels — from brochures to Instagram.
  2. Get buy-in for your brand. Remember to target your internal audiences to build excitement.
  3. Don’t forget the students. Parents control the purse strings, but the girls themselves have a powerful voice in deciding if a school is the right fit.

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