Getting Your Campus to Embrace—Not Resent—Your New Brand

In an era where the strength and engagement of your organization’s brand is more important than ever, many universities and colleges are undertaking the sometimes involved but worthwhile effort of rebranding. Such an initiative is a great way to better connect with prospective students, alumni, and donors and to meet strategic goals. There are many benefits to having a strong brand—and if you don’t have one it’s certainly wise to consider a rebrand. Yet, after you’ve done all of the necessary research, stakeholder interviews, creative brainstorming, and execution, and you’ve taken the other key steps involved with developing a strong brand, actually getting your campus community to embrace your new brand is a whole other challenge.

Here are some tips to consider when rolling out your new brand on campus:

Get Leadership Involved

This should be a given, especially since the budget required for a university-wide rebrand will usually need high-level signoff. Yet, it’s important to make sure that leadership is willing to get behind the new brand and promote it when it’s ready to launch on campus. If it’s only the marketing office that’s doing the plugging, it won’t be nearly as effective. It’s no secret that faculty can be wary of new marketing initiatives, so make sure you have the support of leadership from the get-go and that they are willing to vocally support the brand on campus. From introducing the new brand in a compelling way at an all-campus meeting to even a simple series of emails, having leadership’s public affirmation of your new brand is key.

Highlight How the Brand Connects to Your Mission

Although faculty aren’t always the most enthusiastic about the concept of a brand, it’s important to communicate what a brand really means. It’s not simply a logo or set of “dos and don’ts,” but a way of expressing how your university’s mission plays out in the way the campus community speaks and acts. If possible, take the time to educate campus stakeholders on what a brand actually entails, and how when understood correctly it can be a great aid—not an obstacle—to the university’s mission. One effective way to do this is to present the concept of a brand to various stakeholders, which will also give you the chance to answer their questions and correct any misconceptions in person.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Although it’s important to be mindful of this throughout the entire branding process, it’s critical that the brand does not feel like an entirely new way of being for the university. The rolling out of a new brand shouldn’t be to alter the fundamental mission of the university, but rather to help communicate it in a more compelling and accurate way. By ensuring that your brand does indeed match the deeper ethos of the university, it will be much easier for stakeholders to view the brand rollout in a positive light.

Use Good Storytelling and Design

Any new brand will likely include the creation of brand guidelines to delineate how the brand should function from a design, writing, and behavioral perspective, but these aren’t always the most inspirational manifestations of a new brand. Consider crafting a brand book for all employees that uses strong storytelling and design to highlight staff, faculty, and student experiences. This is also an opportunity to provide a rich history of the school and to reiterate the underlining mission in a fresh and compelling way.

Be Careful with the Term “Brand”

Depending on your audience, it might not always be prudent to use the term “brand,” at least not right out of the gate. Without being able to provide a deeper understanding of what a brand actually means (since many think it just refers to a new logo and tagline), it might be better to use the term “university promise” or something similar. Sometimes by avoiding the term altogether you can get stakeholders to understand the importance of the new brand without losing some of them on what they might perceive to be marketing jargon.

Sources:

"5 Steps to More Unique & Impactful School Branding." June 23, 2017. Brand Building Is Important." May 27. 2012. www.higher-education-marketing.com/blog/school-branding

Godson, Scott. "Why Brand Building Is Important." May 27. 2012. www.forbes.com/sites/marketshare/2012/05/27/why-brand-building-is-important

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