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Take your brand and run with it

May 28, 2019   //   Zehno

You’ve waited and waited. The day has finally come: Your brand has launched.


But now that your agency is trailing off in the rearview mirror, where do you go from here? How do you energize your team to grow your brand all on your own?

John Tyler Community College can tell you.

Before Tyler’s seasoned creative services team ever thought about a new brand, it had already established an excellent track record and reputation with its internal clients. That kind of on-campus respect was key to moving the project forward.

Kicking it off

Years before Tyler partnered with Zehno, the Tyler creative team of five full-timers and one part-timer developed and executed an admissions-focused creative concept and brand campaign totally independently.

But it was time to recalibrate.

The college’s messages weren’t hitting all target audiences. And its creative concept — ”We’re not what you expect” — was perceived by some as negative and didn’t capitalize on Tyler’s strengths in high-caliber partnerships and in-demand programs.

So Tyler invested in a brand overhaul.

Together with the Tyler team, Zehno created a new brand platform with key positioning and messages for a range of prospective students, donor prospects and the business community.

Tyler’s bold “Next up” brand concept focuses on momentum — and features graduates connecting with its Fortune 500 partners and others, contributing to the workforce and defining success in their own terms.

Armed with a message platform (a playbook for consistent messages), flagship photography and profiles (the best success stories that embody a brand), a new viewbook and a brand vision (a visual guide for copy and design directions across tools), Tyler’s creative services team set out on its own to redesign all the tools in its marketing and communications plan and create some new ones.

Tips for your team

How did Tyler do it? Learn from these six tips for building a brand your in-house team can run with.


Get your internal stakeholders on board.

Tyler’s internal stakeholders embraced its bold new brand because nothing about the brand project happened behind a curtain.

How can you follow suit? Leverage every opportunity to discuss what you’re trying to achieve with your new brand. Give people the why and the how, emphasize your audience research and data-driven strategy. When you show how the brand stretches across the institution — from admissions to development and beyond — you’ll gain brand believers.

“This is a process that impacts the entire institution,” said Rachel Biundo, vice president of institutional advancement at Tyler. “We talked a lot about the brand not being a logo, but being an expression of the soul of the college. Connecting the work to enrollment and fundraising — and the resources those two activities bring to the college — was a way to make it more tangible.”


Use your brand project as a professional development opportunity.

Collaboration between an internal team and an outside branding firm is a chance to step up internal skills and try new ways of working together.

“It can feel hard to ask for help on things you’ve been doing in-house,” said Heather Busch, creative services manager at Tyler. “So we framed the whole project as this amazing professional development opportunity for our team, where we could see how Zehno managed projects, worked on publications and led photo shoots. That approach helped our creative team be as open as possible to Zehno’s ideas and input.”


Implement your brand right away.

Stop waiting for everything to be in place before you unleash your brand.

The next project you start should embody your new brand — even if that means routine jobs like digital ads, folders and postcards.

Tyler even used its photo shoot casting call to build brand recognition on campus. Read about it here.


Turn your campus into brand ground zero.

Your current students, faculty and staff could be your biggest brand champions. Tyler’s creative services team worked with its student engagement team to redesign internal email templates, turn flagship stories from the new viewbook into posters displayed along campus hallways and create “Next up” giveaways for campus events.

“One of the most exciting things I’ve heard is that high school teachers and counselors are telling us that seniors are now excited to say they chose Tyler,” Heather said. “And we’re seeing excitement on campus, too, with current students asking for t-shirts, commenting on what they are seeing on campus and really engaging with the materials we are putting out there.”


Can’t overhaul your website just yet? Create a microsite.

Based on inspiration from Zehno’s brand vision, Tyler’s team created an admissions-focused microsite that gave prospective students easy access to things like booking campus tours and an online career coach. It housed flagship student stories in a longer format.

Then Tyler tweaked its website homepage to bring flagship content front and center. Now student success stories rotate as a primary feature. Fonts and colors reflect the new brand identity. And the website is an extension of the brand campaign.


Think beyond admissions to a comprehensive brand.

Your entire institution can benefit from a single brand. It doesn’t matter if the same story appears in your student viewbook, on social media or in your donor impact piece. In fact, it’s better! Use your success stories and your key messages to your advantage — as often as you can — across recruitment, development and reputation-building efforts.

For its campaign case statement cover, Tyler spotlights a hairdresser-turned-industrial welder profile that also appears in admission tools. It’s probably the only school in the country with a badass woman welder on the cover of its fundraising materials.

It’s a great story and a killer photograph. So why wouldn’t you put it on the cover?

Learn More

Read the case study and take a deep dive into how we repositioned Tyler to compete with more than 25 four-year and two-year colleges in Central Virginia. Or if you’re still looking for more tips to rev up your team, get our Coaching for Creative Teams white paper.

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