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With a new creative platform, a re-designed logo and a reimagined strategic plan, the University of Baltimore looks to strengthen its position in the market and usher in a new era.
The University of Baltimore is still the same institution at its core, delivering Knowledge That Works to the nontraditional student: the first-generation college-goer, the career changer, the adult learner. Since 1925, UB has supported students who are dedicated to making a difference and driven to succeed; these same students have gone on to become pillars of the legal community, innovative entrepreneurs, public policy leaders and influencers in the creative writing, design and technology communities.
But while the heart of UB hasn’t changed, the marketplace has. Much like many other institutions, UB has struggled in recent years to differentiate itself among the competition and to confidently communicate its invaluable contributions to the city, state and region. And that’s where a new brand comes in.
According to Victoria Reid, vice president of enrollment management and marketing at UB, “It’s important to take a step back every so often and take a hard look at how we’re communicating who we are, what we do and how we do it. This ensures we are accurately conveying how we serve our students, our communities and the value UB brings to the marketplace.
“To remain known and competitive in the higher education market, we needed to tell our unique story and re-establish UB as the University of first choice for students who are committed to a college education and driven to succeed in a modern society,” Reid continued.
With support from Kurt Schmoke, UB president, and Darlene Brannigan Smith, B.S. ’78, MBA ’80, executive vice president and provost, Reid assembled a core brand team of faculty, staff and students from across the University. Reid also brought on Ologie, a Columbus, Ohio-based branding firm known for its work with other institutions such as Oregon State University, West Virginia University, Northwestern University and the University of Arizona. Together, the core brand team and Ologie led and executed an in-depth qualitative and quantitative analysis of the perception of the UB brand and, based on the resulting data, rebuilt the UB brand from the ground up.
“The University of Baltimore is responding to the same pressures that many universities face today, and in doing so, may have lost sight of the things that made it so very distinct,” said Doug Edwards, associate strategy director for Ologie. “After our first visit to campus and speaking with the UB community, it was immediately clear what made this place so special.”
Through two online surveys, Ologie and the core brand team examined the results of more than 2,000 respondents from the internal community—current students, faculty, staff and alumni—and the external community, including prospective undergraduate and graduate students, high school counselors and community college advisers from Maryland and neighboring states, potential employers and friends of the University.
The research, conducted over several months in fall 2017, uncovered three brand pillars that support UB’s core value proposition. This framework serves as a platform for crafting communications about the impact UB has in the community, for promoting the University’s world-class academic programs and faculty and for further solidifying UB’s place in the market.
•Nontraditional University: “We believe that ambition, hard work and resilience are the truest indicators of success. So we create a different kind of experience—one that welcomes anyone committed to a college education. And we make it possible for them to achieve success in their life, every day.”
•Urban Location: “We believe that the best way to prepare for the demands of the modern workforce is to fully immerse yourself in it. So we’re seamlessly integrated into the city and plugged into its cultural undercurrents.”
•Access to Transformation: “We believe that the greatest sense of accomplishment is found in confronting challenges to arrive fully at ones highest potential. So we take opportunity out into the community, to pave avenues for others to max out their talents and achieve their every goal.”
Core Value Proposition:
The University of Baltimore Forges Engaged Citizens of a Modern Society: “We believe that a UB education drives social progress, upward mobility and a thriving economy. We equip learners with the knowledge and fortitude necessary for a successful next step, in whichever direction that step may be.”
With these themes in mind, Ologie developed distinct creative platforms to help convey—verbally and visually—UB’s brand story. The firm presented two creative platforms and new logo options at meetings to gather feedback from the larger UB community. With this feedback, along with input from the Student Government Association and the staff and faculty senates, Ologie and the core brand team combined elements of both creative concepts to form the final platform that would become UB’s new brand and visual identity.
“This [effort] isn’t about us bringing a brand to the community,” noted Paul Davis, executive creative director at Ologie. “It’s about rallying and helping cultivate the authentic story of this University. The process [of] developing this new expression was collaborative on purpose. It truly is a brand built by the UB community for the UB community.
“[UB] has a lot of impressive stories and makes a huge impact throughout the region,” he continued. “The brand helps bring that to life. It’s time for this University to authentically and confidently tell its story.”
LAUNCHING A BRAND
On March 29, 2018, UB revealed its new brand and visual identity, which included a robust messaging strategy and the new UB logo. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and other members of the UB community attended a town hall session in the UB Student Center’s Wright Theater
The UB brand story powerfully conveys the experience the University creates—and it starts with a big, confident idea: “Here, knowledge works. Make no mistake: Even if you don’t know our name, you know us.”
These few words aim to convey the core of what UB has to offer and how it impacts not only the students that graduate from its programs but also the communities served by UB alumni. Even if some people aren’t familiar with UB by name, they are likely familiar with the successful outcomes produced by UB, its fac- ulty, students and alumni, and the breadth of UB’s reach. “UB’s re-freshed brand identify builds on the ambition, hard work and resilience of our nontraditional students; the seamless integration of our urban location into student learning, fac- ulty scholarship and community engagement; and [the idea] that a UB education drives social progress, upward mobility anda thriving local economy,” Smith said of the effort. “
In short, the new brand identity will allow us todevelop and execute a robust marketing and communication plan to tell the UB story in a bold,meaningful way.”
Together with the new strategic plan, the new brand will help UB: elevate UB’s academic reputation and perception attract more best-fit students, staff and faculty take ownership of UB’s urban location create a consistent message and story inspire support for UB’s future.
“UB must leverage its strengths if we are to effectively differentiate the University, grow enrollments and achieve financial stability,” Smith explained. “Developing a unique brand proposition that resonatesin the mar- ket and positions UB as the region’s premier professional, career-focused education is a keystrategy in our new strategic plan.”
Over the course of the next several months, the UB community will witness the brand activation phase including updated internal communication, environmental pieces and marketing and advertising. A brand ambassador program will give selected students, staff and faculty the tools and knowledge theyneed to help champion the new UB brand.
As part of a comprehensive toolkit for the UB community, the University’s Office of Marketing and Creative Services is developing a new online web presence that includes guide- lines for implementing the brand. This information will be available shortly at www.ubalt.edu/brand. In addition, the Office ofMarketing and Creative Services is seeking sub- missions from the UB community of stories—standout students, alumni, programs, initiatives, etc.—that can help illustrate the new brand. Submit your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.