New brand showcases the best of UD
As the flagship university of the First State, and with a traditional fight song celebrating our “daring spirit bold,” UD holds a special attachment in its history to the words “dare” and “first.”
Now, an exciting initiative to honor those roots while creating a new brand that captures the personality, ambition, vision and reality of the University today has resulted in a core message that articulates our unique identity to the world:
Dare to be first.™
A brand is the public expression of what makes an institution like UD significant, telling the story of who we are, what we are and what we stand for. “Dare to be first” is the tagline—an expressive line used to dramatize a brand’s benefits—that resulted from our extensive re-branding process. We feel it reflects our core strengths and also positions us to attain the vision we have for the future.
Our goal in re-branding the University was to explore the perceived image and reputation of UD, both internally and externally, and to develop a clear, unifying identity—one that can be communicated with consistent messages.
These core brand messages position the University as an exceptional academic institution so that we can continue to attract high-quality and diverse students, recruit and retain exceptional employees and achieve our enrollment, fundraising, research and community partnership goals.
“Dare to be first” invites prospective students, donors, faculty, staff and University partners onto our strategic Path to ProminenceTM while, in the process, showing how such prominence is possible.
The tagline also does what great brands do best: It invites target audiences to make the UD brand story their own, telling that story in ways that are inspirational, differentiating, memorable and relevant. “Dare to be first” is an institutional story, but it’s also a personal story lived as students, employees, alumni and others reach to fulfill their own ambitions.
UD’s new tagline is based on six chapters in our brand story, six pillars identified in the re-branding process as our key attributes. While some other institutions may have similar individual characteristics, it is the way these single attributes connect with and enhance one another that sets the University of Delaware apart.
These chapters or pillars comprise the unique UD brand package: Talent Magnet; Idea Leadership; Discovery Learning; Smart Money; East Coast Classic; and Citizen University.
We’ve based this brand identity on the University’s strategic plan, its internal strengths and its external perceptions of who we are in the minds and hearts of our key stakeholders. The brand brings our strategic priorities to reality, defining what we stand for and the essence of the UD experience. It highlights our internal strengths—the distinctive values and characteristics of our colleges, programs, people and initiatives—that provide the substance on which our core messages are based. And it takes into account the way external perceptions help to shape and differentiate our identity from that of other institutions.
“Dare to be first” and the University’s brand platform form the foundation of how we will communicate to employees, students, parents, alumni, prospective families, partners and the larger community. Through stories that reflect these core message pillars, we will tell all our achievements in enriching the educational experiences of undergraduates and graduate students, increasing the quality of our student body, recruiting and retaining faculty and staff, conducting successful research and adding positive economic value to the state and the region.
The Branding Process: How and Why
The process that resulted in “Dare to be first” began in winter 2008, when we started working on developing strategies to refine the University’s brand strategy and to communicate a well-developed brand position.
With the assistance of higher education market research and creative communications consultants, we set out to define the UD brand story by seeing it through the lens of those who were most able to provide clarity, our stakeholders. We conducted extensive qualitative and quantitative market research targeting employees, students, prospective students, alumni, business and opinion leaders and parents of prospective students. All told, we surveyed more than 7,000 individuals to develop a series of supporting core brand message pillars that are true and relevant about the University and that also have meaning to our multiple audiences.
The market research phase of the project was supported by a group of faculty and staff who provided strategic guidance. An internal team, led by the Office of Communications and Marketing, guided the creative implementation of the branding.
After talking with many individuals, we were able to boil down distinguishing characteristics that illustrate what makes UD excellent.
When we asked for words that reflect the University’s personality, here is some of what we heard: daring, ambitious, energetic, humble, proud, innovative, honest, a leader, entrepreneurial, egalitarian, independent, impactful, global, environmental, civic, scholarly, historical, beautiful, classic and friendly.
Each University of Delaware college, center, department and program has a unique role to play in the overall brand story and in moving the institution to even greater prominence. Our brand platform—the set of guidelines that serves as a common foundation for brand development and governs all aspects of our visual elements and messages—enables all our communications and marketing efforts to work in concert.
One of the outcomes of this re-branding initiative has been the creation of the University of Delaware Brand Style Guide, which can be found at www.udel.edu/ocm. This guide describes how UD’s communications, formal and informal, spoken and written, should reinforce the same set of clear, true and relevant core messages. It details logo usage, colors, text and how the University Seal (see sidebar) should be used in UD communications and marketing. Our underlying assumption in developing the style guide is that a clear and compelling brand that distinguishes UD from comparator institutions will reinforce the positive image of the University when communicated consistently through integrated communications and marketing efforts.
Creating a charismatic brand that exemplifies the University helps to fulfill one of the principles that guides our strategic plan: Impact, defined as “making a difference in the world and assuring that UD’s innovation, excitement and accomplishments are publicly known throughout Delaware, academia and across the nation and the world.”
The University of Delaware is a great university, and we cannot rest until we cultivate and distribute a trusted brand that creates a sustainable advantage for those inside and outside our community.