Rebranding efforts heighten as DePauw enters new semester


When students logged onto their e-mail accounts this summer, they were greeted with a newly designed logo featuring an image of East College in front of a gold background.

"I think logos get a lot of interest and excitement," said Jonathon Coffin, Director of Strategic Communications. "On some level the logo is important, but I can't stress enough that it's a component of the larger whole."

While a clean, versatile logo is important, Coffin said it does not carry the new message itself. Following the release of the new logo, DePauw will roll out a coherent new set of admissions materials this fall.

Also this fall, DePauw Magazine will undergo a redesign with a modified editorial structure. A number of publications for the annual fund in the advancement area are undergoing work and DePauw is also likely to announce a new athletics logo.

Still yet to come is a new website, expected to launch in December. With a universal navigation system and built on a new content management system, the website will make it easier for departments within the university to keep content updated. The website, according to Christopher Wells, Vice President for Communications and Strategic Initiatives, will feature a virtual tour of DePauw and more interactive elements – including a more effective way to notify website visitors of campus events.

"Dr. [Brian] Casey created the division of communications in March of 2010 and this came from the goal of a desire to ensure that university communications were truly coherent – that we spoke and told a similar story across divisions," Coffin said.

Impressed with their work, DePauw hired Neustadt Creative Marketing to help direct the rebranding efforts.

"A brand strategy is essentially a very concise platform that allows an organization, a product line, a service, to distinguish itself in the marketplace and achieve its marketing needs," said Mark Neustadt, Principal of Neustadt Creative Marketing during the DePauw Brand Strategy Presentation on April 12. "It's essentially an intellectual construct."

Coffin said DePauw is at a place where it needs to "tell the whole DePauw story." That includes the academic and social experiences of students as well as their paths after graduation.

"A big part of this project is actually alignment of internal audiences and external audiences," Neustadt said.

The first step in the process involved extensive research. The university engaged in conversations with prospective students, current students, alumni and faculty members. Additionally, the university conducted both qualitative and quantitative research with prospective students and alumni.

"That led us to kind of where we are now in terms of developing a strategy for articulating the strength of our academics," Coffin said. "Articulating the importance of social life on DePauw's campus and what that really means. And then talking about the success of our graduates."

Looking back on their DePauw experiences, alumni comment on the academic experience the university offered them as well as the close relationships they developed with professors. But, beyond that, they appreciate the social skills they gained from their interactions on campus.

Still, prospective students rate academic quality as their No. 1 priority when visiting a university.

"It is extremely important to the university to convey the academic opportunities and travel abroad options for students," Coffin said. "But there's more to the DePauw experience that visitors see once arriving on campus."

"The social experience that DePauw offers, I think, is a bit different from what other liberal arts colleges might offer and might emphasize," Coffin said. "I think there's a certain energy to the DePauw student, there's a certain excitability and really desire to get involved and be part of organizations and make things happen and make a difference. That, I think, is pretty unique."

Neustadt's proposal for the DePauw Brand Statement attempts to encompass the essence of DePauw. The proposal reads: "At DePauw University, intellectual challenge and a vibrant social experience combine to produce lifelong success."

"DePauw's relationship with Neustadt Creative Marketing is totally collaborative," Coffin said. "The firm and university work together on everything from creative concepts to design and copy."

Within the university, a number of departments – including Communications, Academic Affairs, Student Life and Admissions – came together at different points in the process to best represent the complete nature of DePauw. These efforts help create a brand that is authentic.

"Brand-based marketing really creates a heightened requirement of integrity and transparency and honesty," Neustadt said. "That is, if all of your work is building a brand, you have to make sure the brand is actually consistent with the service you're providing."

The goal of rebranding is not to radically change the students applying to DePauw, but to find the pockets where students who would do well at DePauw can be found around the world.

"When the marketing firm was on campus they basically said, ‘This is a campus that is kind of touchy,'" said Dan Meyer, Vice President for Admission and Financial Aid. "It's high-fiving, it's hugging … We kind of travel in wolf packs. Everybody's out there, you see five, 10 kids going to things. You don't usually see a lot of students just by themselves. That's what we're looking for in the students that we're seeking."

Meyer said, while DePauw hopes to broaden its sphere with the new marketing techniques, he still expects the university's attendants to center around the Midwest. Still, if DePauw can articulate the message of what it offers and communicate the energy of the students on campus, Meyer said he could see students coming from other parts of the country as well as internationally.

While DePauw has researched other universities in the rebranding process, Wells said the goal of the rebranding is to do a better job of portraying DePauw in a true and compelling way.

"This is the start of the journey," Meyer said. "This isn't the final destination."