There is a widely accepted opinion that for a house to last, it needs good foundations.
To build a brand that will last, it also needs good foundations. So before you embark on a rebranding process make sure your list of requirements includes these six items. If they are in place, you stand a better chance of having a more durable brand that’s understood and respected.
1. A logo
A logo is the most consistent feature of the entire brand. It’s a unifying ‘mark’ (typographic, symbolic or both) that represents the college in a recognisable way. Designed to be seen in isolation or work in harmony with the rest of the brand, it must function on many levels and speak to a very broad target audience. It should incorporate the college’s individuality, originality and character in a memorable and professional manner. Encompassing style and impact, the logo should make the college instantly stand out from the crowd. A logo that is versatile is also recommended, it should be easily scalable without losing legibility, appear comfortable as a stacked or inline version and be easily reproduced in colour, black and reversed out of white. It will be applied to everything too, so it needs to work on a variety of items – clothing, signage, on-screen (as well as the usual). Its steadfast appearance across all communications should be enforced without exception. A tagline can also be utilised (if necessary) to reinforce brand recognition.
2. A mission statement and essence
The mission statement clearly sets out a framework for the future of a college so everyone associated can understand its intentions. It creates a much more stable environment that’s likely to succeed if common goals are understood, purposes and aims of the college are explained, key audiences are defined and distinctions are made. This short passage of text can be constantly used as a marker to define progress. Capturing the essence of a college (or brand personality) is slightly different from a mission statement. Ideally it should be a phrase created from 6-10 words, so succinct and powerful, it perfectly articulates the uniqueness of the college to its target audience. It perfectly generates a mental picture of who they are. It may hint at a characteristic, offering, value or quality so distinctive and individual, no other competitor uses it. It connects consumer to brand (and vise-versa) through a common understanding. Finding the true essence of a College is creating a description so pure, there would be no better way of describing it.
3. A brand look and feel
A brand look and feel is the design style developed to represent the college in the most appropriate way. Whilst it has to be inspirational, it also has to be professional, flexible, informative and practical and have the same impact in print and on screen. It binds typeface choice, colour, messaging, tone and imagery together to create a recognisable ‘visual image’. This consistent look will become synonymous with the college, identified by students, stakeholders and faculty alike through a wealth of communications material. How a pen looks should still be identified as easily as a page on a website. Equally, if one college prospectus was seen next to another it should still be recognised through its visual look. The look and feel can also be tweaked, developed and evolved over time to prevent stagnation.
4. A comprehensive, professional image library
A picture tells a thousand words but an image showing a ‘happy’ student won’t cut it these days. A photo needs to feature students immersing themselves in real-life at the College – its true spirit needs to be clear for all to see. The library of images needs to inspire, excite and appeal and they need to work in harmony with the brand look and feel. The work should be undertaken by a professional photographer who has been properly briefed so the images are in keeping with the style of the brand. No ‘happy snaps’ should be used in any communication material – first impressions count, so don’t waste the opportunity! For a bit more information on this, go here.
5. Style guide
A style guide is a reference manual outlining the rules and regulations for the use of the brand. It ensures understanding (with every part identified and explained) and guards against incorrect usage or misinterpretation that might be damaging to the overall brand or college. Presented in an orderly manner, each individual element used to shape the brand should be featured – from background history to logo sizing, from mission statement to tone of messaging, from a staff uniform to a PowerPoint slide.
6. A social media presence
A social media presence seems to be an obvious requirement and should be used in conjunction with all the other brand elements, not instead of. It is an opportunity for a college to connect (or re-connect) with students, using a tone of voice that fits with the brand character (not the individual who is maintaining the page). Students are checking their mobile devices more and more frequently (sometimes every 10 mins) and it’s not just Facebook & Twitter either, lesser known sites exist that still have a significant following – Renren Network (the Chinese equivalent to Facebook), Experience Project (social network site that connects people through shared life experiences) and Academia.edu (a platform for academics to share research papers). As well as increasing an internet search ranking, social media is now changing the way students learn. It is being used as an alternative space for students to interact with peers and teaching staff – shared learning, creating community spaces, expressing a voice – it all acts as a stimulus for wanting to learn.