Friday, December 28, 2007

Rebranding a National University

Brad VanAuken on the "Branding Strategy Insider: the Branding Blog" describes the process of rebranding Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute without changing its name. He provides the story behind the Rensselaer tag line: "Why not change the world?"TM

See his blog entry at Branding Strategy Insider.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Facebook petition sinks revamped logo

Here's one I found by accident last night and wish that it had been included in my dissertation. At Vermont's Middlebury College, students protested the change in institutional logos and did so via Facebook. While student activism has not been as successful in branding issues as have alumni efforts, here's one example of the power of the Internet and concerned students who forced the college's administration to cave on their original intent to rebrand the institution's seal.

See the article in the student weekly newspaper
. Unfortunately, the Facebook group "Just Say No to the Middlebury Logo" is no longer available. A companion article explains that a variation of the new logo will be used — it just will not replace the original institutional seal.

While most administrators appear not to involve students in such decisions, there are times when these stakeholders may need to be consulted. In my research, student dissatisfaction was successful when coupled with alumni and other groups. This occurred at University of Mary Washington, Case-Western Reserve University, and California State University of Pennsylvania. With the exception of the Mary Washington rebranding, the student protests alone may not have been as successful. In other examples, the students were apathetic about what the institution was doing in regard to branding issues.

It is an interesting story and I find in noteworthy that students preferred a traditional logo than a streamlined, rectilinear, and contemporary style logo. Regarding other issues, the students appear to be very active and contemporary in thought rather than traditional in nature. To me this appears to be a dichotomy; however, not knowing this school (noted as "one of the nation's top liberal art colleges") nor the student body, I have no answer to this apparent conundrum. Some comments pro and con are found below the main article.

The Beginning

Greetings. It's Christmas morn and the presents are all unwrapped - I got mine, an Irish bouzouki, several weeks early as a combination present for my birthday and Christmas. I've been driving everyone nuts for the past several weeks learning to play the thing. No one here appreciates my eclectic musical tastes. It is not my fault that the family doesn't value the many great musical styles I appreciate, so I have become a denizen of the basement or the bathroom where I may "jam" in peace without fear of reprisal.

With that said, I thought no better time than the present to start this blog. It is based upon the research I conducted for my dissertation on educational branding and rebranding. The document is found in its entirety at

One of my mentors asked me what am I going to do with all my free time and my new-found knowledge and I replied "me thinks I'll start me a blog." They tell you when you write a dissertation that you are the expert in the field, so I've been driving those who can't hear my bouzouki playing with information regarding higher educational branding. After all, they tell me I am expert — so, I might as well pontificate. So, this serves as the introductory post to what will probably become an infrequently managed blog as rebrandings, although popular these days, are not very frequent in the scheme of higher education in general. In other words, there shouldn't be a post every day on the topic only as the phenomena dictate (plural intended as there are different sorts of higher ed rebrandings).

In a nutshell, my dissertation, which carries the title of Survival of the Fittest?
The Rebranding of West Virginia Higher Education, primarily deals with the topic in relation to West Virginia higher education. With that said, there is research dealing with the rebranding of over 150 institutions outside of West Virginia. I only considered U.S. based rebrandings of regionally accredited institutions (although some lesser status nationally accredited institutions served as illustrations). Most institutions in the study transitioned from college to university status, but all types of rebrandings were noted.

The primary institutional rebrands charted in my mixed method study include the following West Virginia rebrandings in chronological order:
  • Morris Harvey College to The University of Charleston in 1979,
  • Salem College to Salem Teikyo University (now Salem International University) in 1989,
  • Wheeling Jesuit College to Wheeling Jesuit University in 1996,
  • West Virginia Institute of Technology to West Virginia University Institute of Technology in 1996,
  • The College of West Virginia to Mountain State University in 2001,
  • Concord College to Concord University in 2004,
  • Fairmont State College to Fairmont State University in 2004,
  • Shepherd College to Shepherd University in 2004,
  • West Virginia State College to West Virginia State University in 2004,
  • Ohio Valley College to Ohio Valley University in 2005, and
  • the proposed rebranding of West Liberty State College to West Liberty University in the near future.
Additionally, there is a case study on the numerous institutions that have used the "Allegheny" educational brand.

Here it begins, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.