Future-proofing your college brand

5 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

Producing a new college brand can be an uphill battle. It’s a testing time full of challenges, but you should emerge with a flexible brand that talks the right language to everyone concerned. For the foreseeable future it’s rolled out to meet all requirements.

After some time, often the two year mark, the tyres start to wobble. The brand isn’t new any more, the novelty has worn off. The core group may have started to move to different roles or different jobs. It’s lost its zing and there are disgruntled opinions filtering down from the ‘new’ top.

It could relate to anything — the logo, the photography, the messaging — all those elements that worked together are now under threat.

Seems like the brand is heading back to square one!

As a brand guardian, how can you develop something fresh and ensure that it lasts longer than one generation of staff?

The brand charter

Simply put, it’s a document that explains the reasoning behind the development of the brand.

Let’s face it, when new people come into an existing management role the first instinct is to change something, make a mark that says ‘I’m here’, and you can bet that one of the first ports of call is the brand.

Without a document to cement the reasons for your researched brand position you are at the mercy of personal preference.

It can seem a daunting task too. Everybody wants to get along with the new Master, ruffling feathers isn’t on the priority list, yet as the brand manager you have to ensure that the brand stays free of personal preference and focussed on the needs of the target audience.

Time to reach for the charter, you’re going to need it.

It’s not you, it’s them

It’s astonishing how many college brands have been built without research or consultation of the target audience. It’s also not surprising when a new Master continues in the footsteps of all their predecessors and changes visual flavour to suit their taste and thoughts. After all this is how it’s done, isn’t it?

Brand charters were made for these situations. They lay out the logic behind the process, marrying up how research uncovered need and influenced the positioning of the brand.

The best brands have solid foundations — everything is done for a reason — not just because it looks good.

Using a development process that involves everyone including staff, students, potential students creates a much sturdier reasoning base for the brand. A sudden discussion about changing the colour of the college logo would be much weaker when shown that the brand is based on fact not emotion or personal preference

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Understanding and transparency

Producing a brand book to ensure you have visual consistency is also essential. No brand is too small to have one! Presented properly, it will steer the brand with confidence and conviction and will clarify any grey areas. Without it, the brand might begin to veer off course at an alarming rate internally and externally.

Much the same as the students in your college your brand is a long-term investment (not a short-term fix). Treating it with respect will ensure it lasts and engages for years to come.

Why have a brand guardian?

As the brand guardian you have a very important role. Without your continual input there will be people that constantly want to pull the brand down — not criticise it — rather take it in a visual direction that they don’t have the skills, experience or ability to handle.

Let’s face it, everybody’s a “designer”. A student may have a copy of InDesign but that doesn’t mean they’re a designer! That’s akin to buying a white lab coat and a stethoscope and insisting you’re a doctor! Watch out for this red herring tactic.

Your job is to ensure that everything stays on-brand! The website, brochures, Christmas cards etc. You play an advisory role and a policing role. In order to do your job well you have to have the strength and gusto to take on challenges no matter where or who they come from.

When a new Master comes to the college it’s worthwhile organising a meeting to discuss the brand, what it is, how it got there and how it’s going. Brands evolve, but don’t let it devolve! You’ll need to advise on how to handle any gaps that may have appeared.

A word of advice

As brand guardian, if you’re not a designer don’t attempt to tweak the brand according to your tastes. Please ensure that you consult with the original designer or a suitably experienced designer and let them develop the new visual piece.

Brands can devolve quickly without the input of an experienced professional.