Northwestern marketing team researches University’s brand

Olivia Exstrum, Assistant Campus Editor

A team of Northwestern representatives from various schools and departments are looking to partner with an advertising agency to develop a cohesive NU brand.

“What we’re trying to do is gain a clearer vision of the University’s unique strengths and opportunities,” said Donna Biernadski, director of the Office for Global Marketing. “What’s the ‘brand story’ and how do we communicate that story? What do people think of when we say Northwestern?”

Biernadski said the team is doing qualitative and quantitative research about different groups across the University — prospective and current students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni — to identify NU’s image and place in higher education.

The leader of the team, Mary Baglivo (Medill ’81), vice president for global marketing and NU’s chief marketing officer, said although the team plans to work with an advertising agency, the University does not intend to run a “classic commercial ad campaign.”

“That’s not to say we won’t develop the appropriate marketing communication after we do the strategic work first, but most likely that work will take the form of our digital presence, social media and on-campus branding,” she said. “(The advertising agency) will help us choose in a strategic way the content and stories we wish to highlight about the University.”

The team will finish its research this fall and hopes to work with an agency into winter and early 2015, Biernadski said. The University has reached out to request information from ad agencies.

“Obviously, we want (the agency) to be smart, strategic, creative and it doesn’t hurt to have some alumni on the team as well,” Biernadski said. “If they already have a passion for purple that would be beneficial, but not required.”

Baglivo, who joined the University with extensive advertising experience last fall, said they are aiming for consistency between the brand position and other University initiatives such as the We Will campaign, a $3.75 billion fundraising campaign launched in March.

“Everything’s not literally matching, but the greatness of a great university is that there are lots of wonderful, diverse things going on,” Baglivo said. “The idea is to have a cohesiveness to it.”

The marketing team was formed after a multidisciplinary task force discussed whether NU could do more to define its brand, Baglivo said.

Although her office is steering the team, Baglivo said the University felt it was important to include representatives from each school and many departments to provide input.

“The idea is to have a good sense of the various pieces of knowledge and stories from around campus,” she said. “While my office is leading the charge, there are a lot of groups of people who are being very helpful in consultative roles in this process.”

McCormick Director of Marketing and Communications Kyle Delaney, a member of the branding team, said his role is to coordinate communication between the different schools and programs across the University.

“As with any branding exercise, we want to better understand who we are, what’s unique about us and how to communicate that,” he said. “Although Northwestern has a lot of excellent schools and programs, we want to be sure we’re known for collective excellence as well as shining examples within the University.”

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