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Our brand exists regardless of whether we manage it, because it is ultimately how people perceive us and feel about us. Their views and feelings are influenced by a number of factors – their experience of us, what the media write about us, what people say about us, league tables and how well (or not) we communicate. All organisations have an opportunity to manage their brand proactively and in doing so we have a better chance of managing our reputation.
We do this by being able to uncover or discover and articulate in our words and through our communications channels what is best about us in a clear and compelling way – in essence how we position ourselves in the sector. Good branding should, at least to some degree, enable an organisation to communicate what is best about it in a clear, cohesive and consistent fashion. Branding includes messaging and how that translates to different audiences in a meaningful way, tone of voice (how we say it) and visual identity – logo, visual language, photography and use of colours. Good branding should also reflect the behaviour of an organisation – because if people’s experience of us influences their perception we need to ensure that our brand messaging reflects the reality and in turn the experience reflects the ambitions and values of our brand (our University Values).
A number of factors mean that now, more than ever, we need to be able to tell our story and demonstrate to our markets, our audiences and our stakeholders what we have to offer and how what we do matters.
Increasing competitiveness and the changed Higher Education market is one. We are increasingly competing with universities across the world to recruit the very best students. The market is global not only for overseas students but also for home and the rest of the EU. Indeed our ambition as a University is to be global, so we need to demonstrate how we are distinctive amongst the nine thousand other higher education institutions in the world.
We have, over the past year or more, been very successful in research including our REF results, our partnership with the Alan Turing Institute and the award of the Fields Medal to Martin Hairer, amongst many other fantastic achievements. Our plans for California also mean that we need a strong identity. This has demonstrated the need for a consistent, ambitious and clear message about the international quality, significance and ambition of our research.
The refresh of the University Strategy also prompted questions about who we are and where we are headed in the next 50 years, and consciously thinking about how to position ourselves in the sector helps answer those questions.
And our 50th anniversary provides a great platform to communicate who we are, what we stand for, where we are headed and why that matters.
Going back to the start of this process, in advance of any design work taking place, we wanted to really understand people's perceptions about the University and use this information to help shape our entire brand review.
To get such in-depth information, we used qualitative methodology - namely focus groups, interviews and consultation - and took the time to speak face-to-face to more than 160 students (including undergraduates, postgraduates, home and international students), staff and alumni (international alumni were consulted online).
Students were kept involved throughout the brand review process, including helping to test different designs and choosing the final concept – which was an outcome of that co-creation. Throughout the process there was a brand steering group, membership included the President of the Students’ Union and a number of Heads of Department.
The final design was then signed off by the University's Steering Committee, which includes the President of the Students' Union, as well as the Vice-Chancellor, Provost, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, all Pro-Vice-Chancellors and Chairs of Faculty.
- We conducted 17 focus groups and in-depth interviews with staff, students, alumni, partners in business and industry to understand what people felt to be the University’s strengths and points of difference and also what our weaknesses were in how well we communicate.
- We commissioned a survey with 500 prospective UG and PG students to understand our reputation and how we are perceived. A summary of this research can be found here.
- We commissioned a survey with 1,000 members of the general public to understand our reputation and how we are perceived.
- We developed ideas around how we articulate our brand verbally and visually as an iterative process. Multiple staff and students were consulted during this process over six months, either through carefully managed testing groups or at other forums and meetings where there was opportunity to provide feedback – this came to more than 160 staff, students and alumni (also see above- 'How were people consulted?').
- The final concept was signed off by the University Steering Committee, which includes the Vice-Chancellor, Provost, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, the President of the Students’ Union, all Pro-Vice-Chancellors and Chairs of Faculty, and it also received input from the University’s Council.
Yes, however the crest is reserved for use at graduation as it has been for the past 13 years.
No, we’ll still refer to ourselves as the ‘University of Warwick’ or ‘Warwick’ as appropriate.
We have a good reputation overall but there were some gaps between how we viewed our strengths and points of difference internally and the messages getting out to our external audiences. Our good reputation with these external audiences was being driven primarily by league table position and a perception of having high entrance requirements. This is fine to an extent, but leaves us somewhat exposed as the factors that influence these things aren’t always in our direct control.
Critically, we need to be known for who we are, for the work that we do and for the values that we hold, for the things that do make us a strong university, for the attributes that have shaped us, and for our creative, enterprising and ambitious culture. The research with UK general public revealed that 46% say they ‘don’t know’ anything about Warwick. Telling our story better by proactively managing our brand positioning will help to ensure that people know us better for who we are.
Currently there are around 50 logos that represent activity or parts of the University. This creates confusion and means that people are often not aware that these activities are part of the University.
The budget was tightly managed from a cost point of view and just over £83,000 was spent, with the development of the visual identity, including the new logo, costing £16,000 (ex VAT). Having a set of clear guidelines, identities, messaging and a comprehensive visual language, will reduce the time and money spent on briefing and developing creative items in future. Over time a growing number of departments, centres and societies have developed their own logo and visual look, and this will no longer be necessary: and this will save money in the longer term.
The cost of on-going implementation will be minimised with the majority of materials being replaced through natural cycle. We have been working with departments to ensure they are aware and can start running down stocks. We’ll seek to refresh materials with new messaging and visuals at the point when they are due to be refreshed and the multitude of online channels can be updated with relatively little cost. The current visual identity has been in place for over 13 years and as such some of the materials that feature the logo are due to be replaced anyway.
The team is working hard to make this implementation as cost-effective as possible. It will be happening over a 12-month period. We’ve worked with staff in each department asking for them to audit their materials and what items will be affected. We’ll now ask for you to run down your current stocks of branded materials (letterheads, compliment slips, business cards, brochures, course information guides) before replacing them as they reach their natural end with newly-branded materials.
Rather than a launch it’s actually a phased implementation programme. This will be implemented over 12 months starting in May. Changes to the website (the logo) and the homepage will be made on 13th May along with digital screens, other changes will take place following on from that, and stationery is available to order from 11th May. Implementation will take place primarily through the normal cycle of replacement of materials.
Were students adequately communicated with about the changes and how can students get involved in the new brand and how it is implemented?
Whilst we have involved students in the detailed development of the brand from the beginning, and have had discussions with students about how we implement it since the beginning of January, we have to acknowledge that some of the communications channels that we used to make students aware were not adequate, and we did not reach all students effectively.
We regret this not least because we need to work with students, staff and alumni as much as possible as we implement the brand. It has become clear that we need to continue with the roadshows and expos that we started in March to enable a wide range of students, and indeed staff, to engage with us about how we present ourselves. These cannot be one-way conversations, but will give students and staff the tangible opportunity to contribute to the brand’s ongoing development as we work through implementation.
There will be important opportunities for students to contribute to how the brand is implemented and refined, including the on-going consultation on how it will be used on sports clubs and societies kits. This will also be significant at departmental level, where we will ensure that students have an important voice in how the brand represents their departmental community.
The new brand has been designed to be adaptable and responsive, and we want to invite students to help us think through how this new flexibility enables us to give much greater voice to students, alumni and staff about how we communicate to internal and external audiences.
We will also be considering how, in the longer term, we put in place communications channels and opportunities to engage with students so that changes such as this are well communicated and understood before the changes are made. We will be doing this in consultation with students with an aim to have some of this in place for the new academic year.
Yes, staff input was really important in the development and testing of the brand. We also have a detailed engagement programme including insite articles, roadshows, Window on Warwick sessions, meetings with departments, copywriting training and a whole suite of guidelines and toolkits. If you would like more detailed information and briefing, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are working with individual departments to assess the appropriateness and timing of change, as part of the overall implementation. Some things will be done at once across the University, for example we can change the logo on our website centrally and other changes made to the website won’t affect navigation so that change will not result in work for departments. We will, however, want to work with departments to ensure that they can embed the brand in the way they present themselves on the web, in print and through social media, in a way that works for individual departments – and this piece of work will inevitably take longer. We are working separately with WBS and WMG to discuss how their uniquely strong sub-brands can relate to the new University brand.
One of the reasons for addressing our visual identity as part of the branding project is because over the years almost 50 logos have been developed that represent different departments, projects or activities within the University (some not mentioning the name of the University). One external company commented that it was the worst they had seen in the sector. A multitude of logos simply fragments our visual identity, and visual identity is an important part in building brand and reputation. The external perceptions research revealed that 46% of the UK general public ‘didn’t know’ anything about the University. Reputation is hard to build so we must protect it as much as possible and this includes protecting our visual identity.
Part of Warwick’s success is the distinctive quality and ambition of our departments. With this in mind the new identity has been developed to be flexible enough that departments can create their own identity but within the parameters of the broader University visual identity. The name of a department can be inserted underneath the University logo and a department can also choose a suite of colours from the new palettes as well as imagery that best communicates who they are. More importantly for departments is messaging around how each department is particular and distinctive, and we are keen to work with departments to consider messaging and narrative.
These will be available on the External Affairs webpages. As well as the brand guidelines, there are tone of voice guidelines, house styles and a number of templates available. The External Affairs webpages also detail key contacts to support you. Alternatively you could book onto some copywriting training which is a great introduction to making the new messaging work for you.
We’re working to put together a central repository for images which can be used by all departments. In the meantime you can refer to the toolkit for guidelines around photography, but if in doubt please email marketing at warwick dot ac dot uk.
The guidelines are incredibly flexible and will help us be more positive in our language. We’ve created a tone of voice guidelines document to help you if you’re responsible for writing marketing copy in print and online.
It’s just a guide, but it’s one that gives us an opportunity to produce varied University marketing content that’s underpinned with consistency. It also encourages writing in a way that reflects the personality of Warwick and its people – and that largely means being friendly, inquisitive and confident. It serves a very different purpose to guidelines for academic writing, and is not intended as such.
The copywriting training we are offering will help you apply the new guidelines and make sure it’s relevant for your audience. The phrase ‘What if...’ is one powerful example of something you could use in your writing but it should be used sparingly. Our high level narrative uses ‘what if’ but once you drill down this should be used sparingly. It doesn’t need to, and shouldn’t be, used in every piece of writing and there are alternative ways of getting across the message of limitless possibilities. These are detailed in our tone of voice guidelines and you can find out more through the copywriting training.
We’re putting in place an extensive training programme so that you can implement the brand yourself with our support. We’ll be offering drop in sessions for you to come along and ask any questions you have. We’re currently reviewing the agencies that we work with and as part of this process we’ll be sending agencies that we use the new brand guidelines and briefing them on the University and our variety of audiences with different objectives and priorities. This should make it easier for everyone and mean that there doesn’t need to be an approval process. We’ll also be on hand to provide support directly to departments, especially those without their own marketing resource. We want to make the new brand as use-able as possible for all parts of the University.
It’s a 12-month implementation programme starting in May 2015 which will be reviewed throughout the year.
There was never really a corporate colour as part of the current visual identity, rather an over-use of the blue because of a lack of other colours prescribed as part of the identity. So yes, as part of the brand guidelines we have an extensive range of primary and secondary colours for you to use, which offers greater flexibility. It means that as a department you can create your own visual identity as part of the wider University brand. For more information please access the External Affairs brand webpages.
No, the Students’ Union is a separate brand which has its own identity. They have already gone through a recent re-brand.
Throughout the research and concept testing phases both international students and staff from the International Office were consulted, and they made major contributions to how the brand and our visual identity should be developed.
These will be available in advance of the implementation in May. You can visit the External Affairs website for updates on this.
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