Do students care about their university’s logo?
You bet they do.
A few years back, there was almost another American Revolution when the University of Massachusetts proposed replacing its Minuteman mascot with the Gray Wolf. Even something as innocuous as the recent tweaking of the University of Georgia Bulldog sparked a tremendous stir.
“It wasn’t really broken, but they fixed it anyway,” lamented ESPN writer Paul Lukas, who obsesses over “athletics aesthetics” at his popular blog, Uni Watch. “Not awful, but it feels kinda generic, like they got it at Bulldogs R Us or something.”
Bentley University is more famous for producing business innovators and entrepreneurs than for its sports teams, but changing the official school letterhead can still cause an uproar.
In September 2012, Bentley University announced that its classic New England clock tower logo (#1 below), which was introduced in 2004, was being reconfigured onto a shield with lightning bolts and falcons (#2). An immediate backlash followed, with students, faculty and alumni criticizing the new look, but not the overall concept of preparing students for their future lives and careers.
A common theme in the criticism: The new clock tower gave off an unintended Harry Potter vibe. Taking the feedback to heart, the university streamlined the logo by getting rid of the lightning and replacing the “Prepared” motto with its Latin translation, “Paratus.”
The Harry Potter jokes have disappeared and the second round of revisions seemed to have quieted (most of) the critics. “Our old logo was colorless, boring and plain,” wrote Moussa Hassoun, a columnist for the Bentley Vanguard student newspaper. “This new one is vibrant in school colors, points to our history and is more suitable for a growing university that seeks to be a stronger influencer in the world of education and beyond.”
The student-run Bentley Marketing Association just wrapped up a six-week photo contest aimed at promoting the University’s rebranding efforts within the Bentley community. Motivated by a generous pile of Bentley swag (five winners are awarded sweatshirts and t-shirts each week), students take pictures of their friends and classmates that capture the spirit of the following challenges:
1. Show How Bentley Prepares You for Your Career/Life (#BPrepared)
2. Your Favorite/Most Creative Place to Nap on Campus (#BNimble)
3. Pose With Your Favorite Faculty Member (#BCompassionate)
4. Capture Your Favorite View on Campus
5. Take a Pic at any Bentley Sporting Event (#BSpirit)
6. Bonus Prizes for Students With Highest Point Totals. (Points earned by submitting and sharing pics and receiving “Love” votes)
“We’re trying to generate a new spirit on campus,” says Karina Ripps, president of the Bentley Marketing Association. ”We’re giving students an opportunity to be creative and I think people are remembering that keywords like ‘Smart,’ ‘Nimble’ and ‘Compassionate’ are all part of the Bentley message.”
“Pongr has the ability to connect people in a new way,” she adds. “It’s a wonderful way to share photos.”
Based on the mobile pics being shared in Pongr’s live streaming Bentley photo gallery, students look like they are having fun pushing the limits of each challenge.
Responding to a call for pictures of the Best Place to Nap on Campus, members of the school diving team put a pillow on their diving board and snoozed above the pool. Another student took a nosedive into his breakfast omelet, pretending to fall asleep in the dining hall. Yet another stretched out on a treadmill.
The faculty advisor for the student marketing club is Ian Cross, the director of Bentley’s Center for Marketing Technology, which regularly partners with global brands on product launch research and digital marketing strategy. Cross says that the peer-to-peer photo contest is an ideal way to reach students who might not pay attention to official campaigns from the university’s marketing department.
“To rebrand is a major undertaking, but to re-rebrand is an overwhelming enterprise,” he says. “The big challenge remains how to get people to care. Younger people are visual thinkers and learners. And we’ve moved into a world where the consumer is the co-creator of the visual world they want to be a part of, including the marketing world.”
“We’re always looking for new technologies to introduce to our students, who’ll be going out into the workplace soon and will want to demonstrate they are up to the minute with the latest digital marketing tools,” Cross says.
Bentley University CMO David Perry is embracing the student campaign as a potential recruitment tool to high school juniors and seniors touring the campus with their families.
“We don’t have a huge endowment so we’re very much tuition dependent,” Perry says. “Our most effective recruitment depends on our students being ambassadors. I hope they feel empowered with this campaign. This is by far, the most authentic way to brand. High school students look up to college students more than they pay attention to glossy brochures.”
“Our brand identity is important,” the CMO says. “Bentley needs to build awareness outside of New England and a lot of 17 and 18 year olds aren’t that excited about the idea of a business degree. They have no idea how many different career directions they can go with it.”
“Sharing pictures is a great way to show high school kids the real Bentley. These aren’t posed photos,” adds Ripps. “This is what the food looks like. This is what students do for activities. It’s a real snapshot of campus life. We definitely want to try another photo campaign after summer break.”