The University of Rhode Island has reached a remarkable point in its 120-year history.
The number of enrolled students is at an all-time high (15,650), while the support received from the State of Rhode Island is at an all-time low (12%). Meanwhile, a dramatic decrease in the number of qualified high school graduates is expected over the next decade.
Faced with these sobering economic realities, President Robert L. Carothers determined that the University needed to look at itself in an entirely new way: “We intend to define our distinctiveness in the marketplace, communicate our value, and tell our story in the most compelling ways possible,” Carothers stated in 2006.
Since then, the University has undergone a carefully researched examination of its brand, or reputation. Using best practices from corporate America’s marketing arena, URI has set out to discover and articulate its unique qualities, core values, and strengths.
The University has now developed a unified look and voice for the institution. While celebrating the successes and appreciating the uniqueness of each of its entities—including colleges, programs, and people—the whole is now revealed to be greater than the sum of its parts.
“Our brand is our promise to the public. It tells them what they can expect from us, and it differentiates what we offer that other universities don’t: Big Thinking. Our brand is derived from who we are, who we want to be, and who people perceive us to be,” said President Robert L. Carothers.
The University began the branding initiative to meet its strategic goals of enhancing student recruitment, retention, involvement, and graduation rates; improving its fiscal health; creating a more inclusive environment; and improving the effectiveness of research and outreach support.
President Carothers appointed Ruby Roy Dholakia, professor of marketing and electronic commerce, and Linda A. Acciardo, director of communications and marketing, to co-chair a 22-member Branding Steering Committee to lead the process through its organizational, research, and implementation phases. “Once it was decided to start this initiative, the administration let the brand development be as systematic as possible, almost textbookish,” said Dholakia.
Following a competitive process, the Steering Committee appointed FORGE Worldwide LLC, of Waltham, Mass., and Jamestown, R.I., to develop the brand strategy. FORGE looked for the characteristics that distinguish URI from other similarly sized New England academic institutions.
The New Look
A progressive roll out of the University’s new look is now underway just as high school seniors are considering their choices for fall 2009. The unified message is being conveyed in all media—from the University’s Web site to its printed materials to its advertising.
The new URI word mark replaces the Green Hall logo that has been used since the University’s centennial in 1992. The tagline “Think Big. We Do.” combined with its graphic elements is the University’s official brand mark.
“Our constituents, including alumni who lead some of the most successful corporations in the world—CVS Caremark, The Thomson Corporation, and Wolters Kluwer—felt we needed to better define and showcase our identity and our strengths. Used throughout the University, the spirit of this new brand voice and visual identity will create a cohesive umbrella approach to accurately represent all of our areas,” said Robert M. Beagle, vice president for University Advancement.
An advertising campaign is bringing the University’s new voice to targeted markets for student recruitment. Billboards, radio and television spots, online key-word search ads, and ads in select publications are extending the new identity.
“Throughout this entire brand research and implementation process, we have listened to and learned from those inside and outside of the University to discover our common understanding and shared vision,” said Acciardo.
The University’s Web site features a carousel of video clips that highlight faculty, students, and others engaged in the life of the University.