Stand Out and Move Ahead

Infusing a brand with compassion

Even as the number one provider of student transportation in North America, First Student had to find a way to set itself apart from the competition.

We set out to prove that we were the agency that could help First Student differentiate itself from the other student transportation providers by creating thoughtful, strategic deliverables and campaigns that captured the essence of why First Student does the work that it does.


Archetypal Branding


Digital Marketing


Messaging Platform

Paid Media


Video Production


Previously, much of First Student’s language around student transportation focused on the logistics of student transportation but was missing the heart of the matter.

This was also the case for much of the competition. First Student needed a partner to help infuse its brand with compassion, the overarching element and reason behind everything First Student does, helping it stand out and move ahead from the rest.


Brand Archetype

Our first job was to determine a brand archetype for First Student to establish a clear motivation, voice, and a meaningful relationship with customers and prospects. With this type of branding, we could provide structure for all future communications. Through our research, we identified First Student as The Caregiver.

The Caregiver archetype is present in all the jobs related to taking care of people and the physical world. With the Caregiver, everything hinges on demonstrating care through tangible actions.

As providers of student transportation, First Student shows they care in everything they do, from routing buses efficiently so they arrive on time to hiring compassionate drivers who protect students and treat them with respect. Now that we knew the archetype, we could begin to bring First Student’s story to life.



Demonstrating Caring As the First Priority

When developing and executing a holistic communications plan that brought the recommended archetype to life, Pathfinders created the Caring for Students campaign. We wanted to show that our client offers more than just commoditized student transportation.

The Caring for Students campaign centers around a single idea: that children are more than just passengers or students — they are their own people with their own unique humanity. Because of this, each child deserves to be treated as more than a commodity to be chauffeured around.

This campaign execution was to be the constant thread throughout marketing communications for the remainder of 2019 and beyond. First Student’s primary motivation and priority is caring for students by delivering a bus experience that starts and ends their school day on a positive note, motivating them to learn, while providing superintendents and parents with peace of mind.

Tactics included:

  • Development of an internal communications plan
  • Stories and full-page ads in various transportation publications
  • Digital and print ads
  • Email communications
  • A commercial-style video


A Constant Connection in Action

One of the biggest opportunities to bring the Caring for Students Campaign to life was through a video. Pathfinders was tasked with capturing an emotionally resonant soul piece showcasing the way that First Student cares for students through the connection developed between bus drivers and students. Through scriptwriting, storyboarding, filming, and production, Pathfinders showed how everything First Student does — logistics, maintenance, compassionate drivers — comes back to caring for students and building trust with them.


Focusing on the Heart of the Matter

First Student additionally enlisted Pathfinders to update their website. While the site had a wealth of information, it was too dense and not intuitively organized. The goal of the project was to elevate the image of First Student, provide users with content and tools to establish credibility, and encourage users to want to learn more, all while focusing on site simplicity.

An in-depth discovery phase revealed the pain points that users were experiencing, their needs, and what to measure. This phase provided the background needed to develop the site and ensure it aligned with overall business objectives.

Next, the Launch Pad phase allowed us to launch a site with only the core, value-driving elements, avoiding overanalyzing and focusing on challenges, not features. Once the Launch Pad website was completed, we turned our attention to gathering analytics, building marketing assets, improving the user experience, and boosting conversions.

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