Evolving Emmanuel's Brand
Communicating the value and impact of an Emmanuel Education in the modern marketplace
When you think of Apple Inc., recognized by Forbes as the world's most valuable brand, the word that immediately springs to mind is "innovation." This succinct value proposition is complemented by a distinct and striking visual identity, as well as an array of products, services, packaging and customer experiences that all work in tandem to support Apple's impressively focused brand. For Emmanuel, a nearly 100-yearold institution with an inspiring mission and countless opportunities for academic, professional and personal growth, the associations are more expansive.
Therein lies a challenge. In today's hyper- connected world, where people are exposed to thousands of messages each day through a dizzying array of communication channels, there is a risk of going unnoticed if your organization's brand is not immediately distinguishable. More than ever, the College's success depends on its ability to communicate in ways that break through the clutter, capture the imagination and set the institution apart.
It was in this context that the College embarked on a brand advancement initiative in the spring of 2015. Now, after more than a year of research, discussion and creative development, the effort is delivering visible results. This fall, the College introduced a new logo and institutional identity, as well as a new line of admissions communications designed to position Emmanuel for success in a dynamic and crowded higher education landscape. The initiative, which is ongoing, advances a key goal defined in the Emmanuel College Strategic Plan, 2014-2019: Elevate Emmanuel's Profile and Reputation.
"Our aim," says Emmanuel College President Sister Janet Eisner, SND, "is to bring awareness of Emmanuel into line with the extraordinary reality of our Catholic educational mission, programs, community, generations of successful alumni and location in the heart of Boston."
A "HIDDEN GEM" NO MORE
The higher education sector has changed substantially in the last decade. Trends include an intensifying competition for students; closer scrutiny of the value of a four-year, residential liberal arts education; and greater expectations for a return on investment. At the same time, college and university marketing programs have grown in size, resources and sophistication. A 2014 study by the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Virginia-based research firm SimpsonScarborough found that college and university presidents ranked strengthening their institution's reputation just second to balancing their budgets when asked to rank 18 measures of success.
Navigating these market forces adeptly requires that Emmanuel transcend perceptions as a "hidden gem" and stand out on the national stage, as well as in a city that includes some of the most powerful brands in education.
"We're going to make sure that Emmanuel's great story is told- through our print collateral, website and social media, and through increasing coverage of the accomplishments of students, faculty and alumni," says Bob McDonald, who joined the College last spring as Vice President of Marketing and Communications. The College created the role to ensure ongoing strategic leadership of all its marketing, communications and branding efforts.
CAPTURING THE SPIRIT
The branding initiative began with a comprehensive discovery phase that engaged more than 4,700 current students, alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, prospective students and high school guidance counselors. Through one-on-one interviews, focus groups, telephone interviews and online surveys, these constituents offered thoughts and ideas that enabled the College to develop a platform for enhanced communications.
To ensure the coherence of those communications across all media, the College developed an updated visual identity. "The identity system presents a united tone and personality to the outside world," says Karen Dendy Smith, partner at Boston-based kor group, which assisted in the branding initiative along with Libretto, a strategic messaging and content development firm, and Maguire Associates, a higher education research firm.
A key recommendation emerging from the research was that Emmanuel make a bold and vivid statement about the value and energy of the student experience. The College's new admissions communications achieve this with their thought-provoking headlines, bright colors and creative typography treatments, as well as their lively and authentic images of life on campus and beyond. "Emmanuel's new brand positioning communicates the essence of the College-the people, the commitments, the value, and the activities," says Dr. Patricia A. Rissmeyer, Vice President for Student Affairs.
Admissions and student communications invite students to "Go All In"-a theme that embodies the community's combination of individual initiative and collective support. "'Go All In' would have greatly appealed to me as a prospective student because I wanted a school where there were endless opportunities, along with students and staff who went above and beyond in what they did," says Edward Bennie '19, Executive Director of Marketing for the Student Government Association. "The new brand is in keeping with the traditions of Emmanuel College while launching it into its new century."
MORE ON THE WAY
The brand advancement initiative is by no means limited to student admissions. In the months to come, the College will enhance its outreach to additional audiences, including rankings organizations, opinion leaders, parents of current students, and alumni of all generations, as well as a widening circle of friends and corporate and foundation funders. Emmanuel also aims to enhance internal communication with current students, faculty and staff. The goal is to create a "virtuous cycle" whereby a strong brand generates greater engagement, which leads to improved results in enrollment and fundraising, which, in turn, supports the overall vibrancy of the educational experience and the success of students and alumni.