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New Names & Nicknames in 2015 PSE Branding

This week, Ken completes his 3-part review of higher ed branding in 2015 with a look at “New Names & Nicknames,” from DMZ to uVic! (Part 1 was “Cautionary Tales & Cautious Rebrandings”  . Part 2 was “Bold New Brands of 2015”.)

Without a doubt, institutions are loathe to lose decades of brand equity and recognition by changing their names. Generally it occurs only when the institution’s mandate has changed significantly, such as when a college gains university status, or an institute becomes a polytechnic. (Most recently it was SIAST becoming Saskatchewan Polytechnic.)

For years we’ve also seen a pretty widespread trend toward dropping adjectives like “regional” and “community” from college names, and minimizing or eliminating the use of the word “college” itself. Last spring, Saskatchewan’s Southeast Regional College launched a bright new brand identity without the word “Regional.”

The AUCC rechristened itself “Universities Canada” last year, launching a “dynamic” new visual identity using a diamond rather than a square, to symbolize convergence, such as at a crossroads, a town square, or a university quad.

Last year we also saw Fanshawe College announce the Don Smith School of Building Technology, UBC name the Peter A. Allard School of Law, and Wilfrid Laurier University rename the Laziridis School of Business & Economics.

Higher ed more often shortens names than changing them completely, such as when Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone adopted the official name “DMZ” last spring.

Ryerson University itself launched a refreshed visual identity last summer, featuring fresh new colours, a slightly modernized typeface, and a bit of “out of the box” symbolism. The positioning strategy emphasizes 5 key differentiators from other Toronto institutions, and we look at two quick brand videos to see it in action. In keeping with our “nicknames” topic, Ryerson also revealed two abbreviated logos for use in informal situations, and social media.  Q&A with Sheldon Levy   Mind & Action Brand Video

Last February, the University of Victoria finally embraced the nickname, “uVic,” by which they have been affectionately known for years. The dynamic new brand includes refreshed colours, a new wordmark, and new graphic elements including a wavy “connective thread” and some playful birds, martlets, drawn from the coat of arms.

One of the challenges to adopting a shorter name for marketing purposes is opposition from internal and external stakeholders. I think perhaps uVic learned from the example set by Western University back in 2012. Critics thought the name geographically inaccurate, although frankly there are dozens of “Northwesterns” and “Southwesterns” in the eastern US. The new identity solved many technical issues, and introduced an elegant system of sub-brands that is the nicest I have seen anywhere.

So we’ve seen colleges and universities use several strategies to pave the way for a new name or brand. UCFV adopted an acronym, Malaspina a memorable icon, CBU stripped away all semblance of a logo, and uVic made it clear that the old logo will continue in widespread use.

The real work of rebranding an academic community isn’t creative work at all; the most challenging aspects are consultation, research, consensus building, and easing the campus into a new identity. Too many top-tier ad agencies have underestimated this challenge, or badly mishandled it. It’s the aspect of higher ed brand strategy that I think is most exciting, and it’s the reason I developed my proprietary Brand Chemistry™ model.

And this week’s #ICYMI: a new recruitment theme from Dalhousie University, “Find what drives you.” Nicely addresses concerns about an intellectually-challenging student experience.

Coming up next time: a surprise episode! Watch for it later in March, or subscribe to our free email newsletter now for exclusive early access.

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