Walking the walk: Two uni brands with something to prove

Sponsored: Mike Bond, Co-founder of Bond & Coyne, talks about two university brands and how ‘evidence’ has played a part in both

A university is not a slogan. A university is what it does as an organisation, what it achieves, develops, builds, writes, invents. A university is the place and its people. A university brand therefore should not act as a facade, but as a window: a window that a university should simply be able to open and say “See!”.

In a crowded market, Kingston University struggled to standout and articulate the remarkable achievements of its staff and students. If the University could find a way of gathering its stories in a succinct coherent way, they could elevate them and put them at the forefront of its marketing and campaign activity. If its stories are strong, then its brand would be strong.

We created a brand articulation for Kingston University inspired by the broadcast of news. It centres on the word ‘via’ and encourages the University to tell stories that include a cause and effect. The system has already been used in its Clearing campaign resulting in the University exceeding recruitment targets (104%) and has inspired new forms of publications. Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) is a wholly art and design focused institute with a reputation built on its creativity. Our challenge here was to enable the University to “walk the walk” by evidencing its creativity through its brand instead of simply stating it. This approach resulted in both print and digital forms that have challenged convention in HE marketing. On initial launch, AUB achieved year-on-year increases in applications leading to a rise of approximately 27% in 3 years.

I’ve seen the university world from both sides – as a visiting lecturer on the inside and as a consultant on the outside – and I know that a huge amount is often achieved within a university without marketing departments ever knowing about it. The sharing of student stories is critical to a university being able to present a confident, authentic brand based on evidence. HE audiences are savvy to marketing spin and seek authenticity in the brands they deal with – so this evidence is critical.

Above: Created as ‘a gift to the curious’, AUB’s kscope app turned phones and tablets into kaleidoscopes. Images and videos made via the app were uploaded onto the University’s website and shown live on a world map – evidencing the AUB’s creativity in digital form

As an agency, we find that focusing on evidence helps universities to evolve their brands and at the same time aids the development of compelling campaign materials and sector-leading formats. Factors to using brand evidence successfully include:

 – Pride in an overarching university brand is crucial for staff to wish to share evidence

 – A simple storytelling system is critical to enabling faculties and schools passing stories up the chain

 – An authentic way of including student stories in brand materials encourages student participation

For evidence to truly play a part in a brand’s articulation, it is imperative that a deep knowledge is gained of a university before successful brand communications and campaign can be developed. We find that strategy-led creative workshops are hugely important in revealing the truths and evidence that go on to be powerful tools in university brand engagement.

Bond & Coyne is a brand design agency working in the HE, charity and not-for-profit sectors. It was founded on the belief that design should be based on strategy-led problem solving so that the results are fit-for-purpose as well as beautiful. For further info email mike@bondandcoyne.co.uk or visit www.bondandcoyne.co.uk


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