U of I's New Brand
The landscape of higher education is changing. Where many students used to consider just a few colleges, they now have access to more information — and more choices — than ever before. Online colleges have sprung up to serve students who want to study from home. Urban colleges now offer students an affordable brick-and-mortar academic experience while they work. And our peer research universities are pivoting to gain awareness and attract students in an ever-crowded marketplace. Given this, it’s more important than ever to ensure that every time we communicate with our audience — our customers — we do so in a consistent and focused manner.
The goal of this brand refresh is to build on our strength, increase public recognition of what makes U of I great and, ultimately, increase enrollment. With the increase in web-based advertising, social media and engagement channels, messaging is cluttered and loud. The University of Idaho, while strong, is getting lost in the chatter. We needed to tighten our message, identify what U of I does best, and create a brand plan that defines the character and encompasses the goals of U of I.
U of I is Idaho’s premier research university. Its prominence in the state, region and country are real.
In a thoughtful and strategic approach to growing U of I’s public face, University Communications and Marketing has underwent more than a year of extensive surveying, studying and market analysis to produce sound message and visual guidelines to streamline U of I’s look and feel. This is a long-term project and will guide us for many years to come.
The Brand Refresh Project
Under the direction of U of I’s marketing leadership, U of I’s marketing agency (Stoltz) began meeting with key stakeholders to review the university’s mission, vision and values, as well as the short-term and long-term goals driving its work.
We conducted in-person interviews and online surveys with our key audiences to understand their current perceptions of the university. Market research analysis and a brand archetyping exercise helped corroborate and identify U of I’s strongest unique value propositions (UVPs) and brand/marketing opportunities.
From this, U of I’s refined brand strategy (position and UVPs) was developed and presented to the university president’s cabinet and key stakeholders.
After the strategy was approved, the team began developing the Brand Book. This new campus resource expresses the key findings from the original research and subsequent strategy in a concise and aspirational manner for staff and faculty.
A brand style guide was developed in partnership with the university’s marketing and Creative Services teams. This document provides the visual expression of the brand: typography, color, photography, iconography, etc., and establishes the foundation for all creative work moving forward, with the goal of expressing a refreshed, youthful and energetic brand.
Interviews and online surveys were sent to the following audiences:
- Idaho Voters 18+ (Statewide Public Opinion Poll): 500 phone respondents
- Open they an: 9 in-person interviews, 622 online respondents
- Alumni: 11 in-person interviews, 2,250 online respondents
- Prospective Parents: 14 in-person interviews
- Stakeholders: 35 in-person or phone interviews
- Current Students: 6 in-person interviews, 1,585 online respondents
- Counselors: 4 in-person interviews, 85 online respondents
Like any good research, some money must be spent to get quality results. University Communications and Marketing spent $53,300 on the statewide opinion poll. This has been done every four to five years in the recent past. Other costs to support the project to date are roughly as follows:
- Research and Brand Position Development: $52,469
- Brand Book Development: $9,971
- Visual Style Guide Development: $46,430
The U of I is well-known. We have proud alumni, successful graduates and prominence across the state and the region. U of I is not broken. Rather we are refining, simplifying and honing our message to carry forward the best of what we've had to date.
A brand is who we are at a foundational level and what our constituents think of when they hear "University of Idaho." It's the essence and promise of what will be delivered or experienced.
A brand is not a tagline. A tagline is a catchy phrase used for a particular campaign. A brand is who we are fundamentally.
We don’t have one. While we may use taglines on specific advertising or fundraising campaigns, the use of taglines will be limited in scope and duration.
The brand — what is unique to the U of I — is at the core of our mission and our strategic plan. It is our definition. It is what drives each of our goals in the strategic plan and exemplifies our mission of education, research and outreach. How we tell that story and the results from it are fundamental to reaching our strategic goals.
People are inundated with messaging — the internet is in front of people at all times, sending images, sales pitches and information that play on emotions and intellect. For one university to break through and be heard, we must produce a unified message — solid, repeated and strong.
The success of a brand refresh is typically measured by an increase in positive buzz among audiences. In the case of the university, University Communications and Marketing (UCM) plans to conduct a follow-up public opinion poll in three years; success will be shown in the form of an increase in positive sentiments about the institution and an increased awareness of the university’s unique value propositions and selling points. Additionally, with the charge to grow the institution’s enrollment base, UCM will be closely monitoring anticipated increases in key performance indicators, following a planned update to the enrollment marketing suite collateral.
The Impact of a Brand Refresh
The reputation, value and pride of a university is wrapped up in its brand. Attracting new students is the No. 1 priority for everyone at U of I. The brand is the platform on which we all can build our piece of the enrollment puzzle.
Creative Services is developing a suite of materials to get you started — including a logo and templates for letterhead, flyers, posters, newsletters, business cards and more. As your unit replenishes items or replaces dated materials, the refreshed brand will automatically be incorporated into the design. You do not need to replace your materials or stop using the existing material you have printed.
The launch officially began in early 2018, but U of I's new look will likely take a while to fully incorporate. Items such as permanent signage may not see a change for many years.
No. There is no deadline to incorporate the refreshed brand elements.
Our faculty and staff members, students and alumni are all brand ambassadors. Most will not be directly impacted by the brand refresh. But the exciting, focused attention on this basic element of the university is something everyone can get behind — a common source of Vandal pride.
Using Brand Resources
Templates for a variety of needs are available on the UCM Brand Resource Center website. Logos have been developed for each unit and are available on the same site. Available templates include:
- PowerPoint and Keynote slides
- Business cards
- Email signature lines
- Digital assets
- HTML email
- Event invitations
- Blank templates
These assets are plug-and-play. You can download the template, drop in the logo and fill the template with your message. They are designed to be simple to use and highly versatile. You'll continue to order and pay for business cards and letterhead through the Creative Services website per the usual process. Again, we recommend using up your existing supplies before ordering new materials to minimize the financial impact.