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Shane Shanks


Essential truths of branding

August 31, 2015   //   Shane Shanks

Deal with it.

Whether you like it or not, your institution has a brand. And it’s not like a Facebook page that you can shut down or a website that you fantasize about unplugging when you go on vacation.

The brand is always there, so it always needs tending.

Your brand is bigger than a logo.

Graphic identity is only part of communicating your brand. Logo guidelines and naming conventions, although important, are just the sideshow. If your operation’s No. 1 achievement is consistency in business cards, you’re probably missing the big picture.

What does your institution really stand for? Surely it’s not business cards.

Your brand is not entirely within your grasp

It’s based on perceptions that your audiences bring with them. Your brand is a mix of what you think your institution stands for — strong programs, innovative initiatives, etc. — but also what the world at large thinks about you.

That’s why outdated impressions can persist, despite all your good work. Reputations linger and contribute to a poor understanding of your institutional brand.

Maybe you’re still viewed as a “religious” institution even though the campus hasn’t been church-affiliated since the 1960s. Or you’re seen as a “women’s college” despite becoming co-ed in the 1970s. And as many schools can confirm, it’s hard to ever escape the “cow college” or “hippy school” stereotype.

The brand is not your problem. It’s everybody’s.

Some of you may work at institutions where people can’t even agree on the school name. Do you use the official name on the school’s charter? Do you use the nickname that 100 percent of your students, 100 percent of your alumni and 99.9 percent of your state’s residents already call you? Do you settle on the nickname bestowed upon you by ESPN — or do you just let each professor decide? That’s a little sad.

Building the overall brand requires more than just the communications office, admissions staff, marketing team or web group. The institutional brand is strongest when various units are on the same page, each advancing the overall “story” in a synchronized way.

Learn more

See what Zehno can do for your brand here.

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