Knowing What We Are: The DePaul Brand


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My presentation on the DePaul Brand given at HighEdWeb, 10/24/11.

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  • Good morning. I am not Deb Maue. I’m Meg Marchese, the Director for Marketing Strategy at DePaul University in Chicago. Deb was supposed to be here this morning, but had some foot surgery last week that was a bit more complicated than expected, so she asked me to join you in her place. I’m happy to be here this morning to talk to you about the work that we’ve done at DePaul in understanding and evolving our brand.
  • The concept of branding is not new in higher ed, but it is becoming more important as institutions face a greater and greater need to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive environment. But defining a higher ed brand is not a simple, or an easy, process. Today I’m going to share with you the process that DePaul has used to develop and gain agreement to a university-wide brand strategy. I’ll also share with you the specific results of our latest research and brand refinement, completed in January, 2011. And I’ll share some things that you can take back to your institutions to help with your own efforts to understand and gain agreement to a brand strategy.
  • But enough about the past. Let’s talk about where we are today in 2011. As I said, the concept of branding in higher education is not new anymore. Institutions have been talking about it for a long time. But if you look around at most institutions, I think you’ll agree with me that many of us still have a long way to do. So why is that? Why is branding so difficult in higher ed? Now, maybe you think it isn’t, which is great. For those of you who do find it difficult, many of you may think it’s difficult because it’s difficulty to apply “corporate” concepts in higher ed – it’s seen as crass or unseemly. Well, that’s part of it. But I think there are some other dynamics unique to higher ed which make it challenging. First, to a large extent your brand has already been defined by the experiences people have had with you. It’s not like you’re launching a new product where you can start from scratch. You already gave a brand. It’s just that, depending on how much research you’ve done, you may not be clear about what it is. Second, a university serves many audiences, each of which is looking for different things. Prospective students want to know that they’re going to get a great education, have a great overall experience, and get a job when they graduate. Alumni want to know that the value of their education is going to increase, and that the connections they have with the university and other alumni are going to be beneficial. Donors may want to know that you’re providing educational access to students who may not be able to afford college. And employers want to know that your graduates are going to be good employees, and be able to contribute to their organizations. This makes for a very complicated messaging strategy, because all of these audiences need messages that are tailored to them, but within an overall brand framework that is clear, simple, consistent and integrated. Then, finally, there’s the decentralized, flat nature of higher ed, where there may be no clearly understood process for gaining agreement to a university-wide brand strategy, and little leverage to make sure everyone stays in line after the fact. All of this makes branding much more difficult in higher ed than in, say, consumer packaged goods marketing.
  • At DePaul, we have three principles about developing a brand strategy in higher ed. First of all, the word brand is a noun, not a verb. You don’t just decide to create a brand one day. You already have one. The task is to understand what it is, gain agreement to how you want to evolve it, and create an action plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Second, it’s an on-going, evolving process. You don’t create a brand strategy and you’re done. It requires continuous research and refinement. Third, evolving your brand is way more about what you do than what you say. You can say whatever you want on your website and in your viewbook, but if it’s not consistent with the lived experience people have with you everyday, it’s not going to get you anywhere. Your brand strategy must be a clear articulation of what you are, and in order to evolve it, the services and experiences people have with you are going to have to change as well. Finally, there are three must-haves when you define any brand, including a higher ed brand: 1) It must be distinctive. If you’re just saying the same thing everyone else is saying, it’s not going to set you apart; 2) it must be ownable. It had to describe what you are. 3) it must focus on benefits. This is probably the area in which we have the most room for improvement. We love to talk about the square footage in our science labs. And the number of tenured faculty we have. And our small class sizes. But these are all features, not benefits. A good brand strategy is focused on what’s in it for the target audience. What do they get from our large science labs and our small class sizes?
  • One of the main benefits of the original brand work we did was that we gained agreement to consistent brand architecture and logo usage across the university. Just so you can see how far we had to go, here is where we were before we started. It pretty much looks like the dog’s breakfast.
  • And here’s where we ended up after the original round of work. As you can see, we leverage the DePaul brand equity across the colleges. And we have consistent logo usage across all.
  • The objectives of our latest brand strategy update, which was done from May, 2010 – January, 2011, are shown here. First, we wanted to reassess our internal, external and market insights around our current image and perceptions of DePaul and our competitors. Specifically, we wanted to: 1) understand what attributes, or characteristics, are important in determining the perception of a university brand, and 2) understand the characteristics that are associated with DePaul and its competitors. Second, we want to review and update DePaul and competitors’ strengths, weaknesses and brand equity. Third, we wanted to refine our unified brand strategy – that overarching, or umbrella strategy that sets the stage for those individual messaging strategies for each audience. This was the biggest gap in the work that we had done previously. We had the individual pieces, which had a lot of consistency, but we didn’t have an agreed overarching strategy. And fourth, we want to develop key messages to support the unified brand strategy. So for instance, when we talk about “real-world knowledge”, what are the messages that support the statement?
  • We did this project in three phases. The first phase was an internal strategic audit, done with university leadership. We did 28 interviews with divisional heads, deans and other key leaders. The purpose of this phase wasn’t to define the brand. If you want to do that, you have to understand how external audiences perceive you, not internal audiences. But this stage was important for buy-in. We wanted to make sure that leaders got their specific questions addressed/ The second phase was an external market audit. This phase had two phases, qualitative and quantitative. In the qualitative phase, we did in-depth interviews and focus groups with a total of 132 people. The purpose of the qualitative interviews was to develop the questions for the quantitative research. We wanted to make sure we had the right language for the the questionnaire. The quantitative phase was an online survey. I’m going to show you more detail about who we surveyed in a minute. The third and final phase was the strategy development phase. This was where we took all of the information from the second phase, figured out what it meant, and developed a refined unified brand strategy and key messages for the individual audiences. This last phase was done with a large group representing the colleges and divisions, and included deans and division heads across Enrollment Management, Alumni Relations, Student Affairs, the President’s office, and Community and Government Relations.
  • As I mentioned, we had two goals for the research: 1) to understand what characteristics are important to people in determining the reputation of a university, and 2) to understand what characteristics people associate with DePaul and its key competitors. To understand what’s important, we gave people a list of 44 characteristics and asked them to rate each one on a scale of 1-5 how important that characteristic was to them. We said, “Here is a list of factors that may influence your perceptions of the reputation of a university. Using a 1-5 scale, please tell us how important each one is to you.” Then, to understand what characteristics people associate with DePaul and competitors, we gave them the same list of characteristics, and asked them to rate each one on a scale of 1-5 how closely they associated that characteristic with DePaul. One of the biggest challenges we always face in doing brand research is in defining our competitive set. Do we use cross-application data to determine our competitive set? Should we look at our undergrad competitors or graduate and adult competitors. In this case, we hand-selected our competitive set. We included Loyola, which is always our biggest competitor, no matter how you define it. And we included Marquette, which is another large midwest Catholic school. And then we included Notre Dame, which has a stronger reputation for academic excellence than we do. And the University of Illinois at Chicago, which is the largest public institution that we have significant overlap with.
  • When we line up those broad benefit areas, with the characteristics that fall into them, we see that the top two benefits – career opportunities and respected academically - are requirements. They’re important but not differentiating. The bottom two – multicultural perspectives and social awareness - are supporting differentiators. They’re closely associated with DePaul, but not as important. So we talk about them, but we don’t lead with them, and we have to talk about why they’re important. And the one in the middle – prepared for the real world – is the strategic driver. When we look at what’s really important and what’s most closely associated with DePaul, these five benefit areas emerge as the biggest opportunity to both represent the lived experience of DePaul and also to differentiate ourselves from our competition – they are the five benefit areas that are critical in defining DePaul.
  • So…developing a brand strategy is one thing. But getting it implemented is another. So I wanted to tell you where we are in the implementation process. The revised brand strategy was approved by senior university leadership in late 2010. And a month later, we were very excited to present it as the kick-off for the university’s new strategic planning process. This made a strong statement to the university not only of the importance of integrated brand messaging, but also indicated the understanding on the part of senior leadership that the brand provides the foundation for what we want to be as a university, and therefore, must inform all aspects of the strategic planning process. Since that time, we’ve also presented the brand to key staff in the colleges and divisions, including those with communications as part of their jobs, and we’ve also educated front-line staff, including Admissions, the Career Center, Financial Aid, Student Records.) We are currently working with the colleges to revise their key message documents, which identify ways that the colleges can adapt the overall brand message for their audiences. And we’re very excited about the new advertising campaign that’s currently in development. Set to launch in October, this campaign, which includes TV, print, transit, and digital advertising, will be the university’s first key external communication based on the new brand. We will also use the campaign launch to educate faculty and staff about the new brand strategy, with communications developed specifically for the faculty/staff audience. And finally, we’re developing a brand resource site to provide the tools that staff will need to understand and communicate the brand.
  • This eye chart shows the methodology and research plan for the quantitative study. Included in the study were prospective and current undergraduate students, prospective and current graduate students, advancement audiences, including alumni, employers and community members, and faulty and staff. Undergraduates, graduate/adult students and Advancement were each weighted at 30% in the final analysis, and faculty and staff were weighted at 10%. A few things to note here. First, you’ll see that we had very low response rates to the survey. A piece of advice – don’t try to do surveys in the summer. So while we are confident in the results here, they are not statistically valid to the whole population because of the low response rate. Also of note is that, with the exception of community members, for which we used an outside, independent panel, these are our people – our students, our prospects and our alumni. The reason we did this was two-fold – first, we didn’t have the money to do a random sample in Chicago. And second, we wanted fairly in-depth information, that most people outside the DePaul community would not have been able to give us with any reliability.
  • Knowing What We Are: The DePaul Brand

    1. 1. Knowing Who We Are: The DePaul Brand Presentation to HighEdWeb 2011 October 24,2011
    2. 2. Today’s Topics• Why branding in higher ed is so challenging• DePaul’s process for gaining agreement to a university-wide brand strategy• Results of our latest research and brand refinement• Twitter: #MMP2• @debmaue 2
    3. 3. DePaul Highlights• Located in Chicago, IL• Six Campuses• 2,500 FT Employees• Ten Colleges/275 Academic Programs• 140,000 living alumni/100,000 in Chicagoland• Big East Athletics• Budget of $550 Million
    4. 4. DePaul University is the largestCatholic and theninth largestprivate university in the nation. Catholic Universities Private Universities DePaul University 25,145 New York University 43,404 St. Johns University 21,354 University of Southern California 36,896 Georgetown University 16,871 Brigham Young University 32,982 Loyola University Chicago 15,951 Boston University 32,727 Saint Leo Univesity 15,565 Northeastern University 29,528 Fordham University 15,158 Nova Southeastern University 29,153 Boston College 14,015 Harvard University 27,291 Saint Louis University 13,875 Columbia University 25,221 University of Notre Dame 11,985 DePaul University 25,145 Marquette University 11,806 George Washington University 25,135
    5. 5. Why is Branding so Difficult in Higher Ed?• In most organizations, the brand is the outward expression of the mission – Not so in Catholic higher ed• Brand is defined by the experience people have had with you – You’re not starting from scratch• Many audiences who want many different things from their interactions with you – Prospective students – Alumni – Donors – Employers• Decentralized organizational structure – No clear process for gaining agreement – Little leverage to get colleges, departments, divisions to adopt brand standards and messaging 5
    6. 6. “Principles” of Higher Ed Branding• It starts with what you are• It’s an on-going, evolving process• It’s more about what you do than what you say• To be effective, your brand must be: – Distinctive – Ownable – Benefit-oriented 6
    7. 7. History• DePaul started to talk about the concept of branding in 2000 at the start of our last strategic planning process – Initial work done in three phases • Graduate/adult, Undergraduate, Advancement – By 2005, we had common brand architecture, common brand language, and consistent logo usage 7
    8. 8. DePaul’s “Brand Architecture” – pre-2003 Barat CTI Education Kellstadt LA&S Law Music SNL OCPE The Theatre School
    9. 9. DePaul’s Brand Architecture – Post-2003 • DePaul now goes to market with the DePaul Dominant structure. – The Theatre School is the only exception to the DePaul dominant structure Education Law LA&S Music OCPE SNL* The Theatre School*DePaul KGSB* CTI* Office of Continuing and ProfessionalDominant EducationDePaulSharedDePaul The Theatre SchoolEndorsedStand-alone
    10. 10. The Process of Defining the DePaul Brand• Understand what people think about DePaul and its main competitor schools – Students – Alumni – Faculty/Staff – Community at large• Understand the gaps between how we want people to think about DePaul and how they think about us now• Figure out what we need to do and say to close the gaps 10
    11. 11. Project Objectives• Develop the unified brand language• Refine the individual audience messaging strategies• Develop key messages to support the unified brand strategy 11
    12. 12. Project Phases • Internal university leadershipInternal - Strategic perspectives • 28 Interviews Audit • Existing brand and relevant work • 19 In-depth Interviews • External market perspectives of • 13 Focus Groups (132 DePaul and competitors total inputs) External - • Qualitative insights • Online Survey Market Audit • Quantitative insights • 1,517 completes • Competitive assessment • Refined Unified Brand • Unified brand strategy Strategy Strategy Develop- recommendations • Refreshed Positioning ment • Internal core team sessions Strategies • Key Messages 12
    13. 13. Research Objectives• To understand: – What characteristic are important to people in determining the reputation of a university – What characteristics people associate with DePaul and its competitors 13
    14. 14. Key Findings From Quantitative ResearchWhat’s Important• The characteristics that were most important in determining a university’s reputation were: – Academic reputation and recognition – Faculty contributions and interactions – Strong price/value relationship• Career connections and outcomes, having a current curriculum, and having strong student support services are also very important• People indicated that prominent alumni, school pride, athletics and religious affiliation were less important to them in determining a university’s reputation 14
    15. 15. Key Findings From Quantitative Research (cont.)What DePaul is Known for• The characteristics most closely associated with DePaul were: – Being connected to a world-class city – Teaching approach – Having a variety of curricular options• Diversity in the student body, recognized programs, and providing an education that encourages service are also strong characteristics 15
    16. 16. DePaul vs. Key Competitors 16
    17. 17. DePaul vs. Key Competitors 17
    18. 18. DePaul vs. Key Competitors 18
    19. 19. Mapping the Characteristics 19
    20. 20. Mapping the Characteristics 20
    21. 21. Mapping the Characteristics 21
    22. 22. Mapping the Characteristics 22
    23. 23. Mapping the Characteristics 23
    24. 24. Mapping the Characteristics 24
    25. 25. Mapping the Characteristics 25
    26. 26. Mapping the Characteristics 26
    27. 27. Mapping the Characteristics 27
    28. 28. Benefits Sought from DePaul Audiences Characteristics Benefit Role• Academic reputation• Program recognition for excellence• Highly ranked programs Respected Academically Requirement• Faculty experts• Grads hired by top employers/grad schools• Ongoing support for career• Connections to top companies Career Opportunities Requirement• Alumni in local economy• Faculty with real-world experience• Teaching focus/small class size• Current curriculum Prepared for the Real World Strategic Driver• Wide variety of programs• Flexibility• World-class city• Global issues Multicultural Perspectives Supporting Differentiator• Diversity• Balanced education• Education encourages service and social responsibility Social Awareness Supporting Differentiator• Catholic• Relationships with community 28
    29. 29. DePaul Unified Brand PositioningFor the university’s primary audiences, DePaul is the universitythat prepares graduates to work, succeed and contribute in theglobal community.Its foundation of respected academics and real-world knowledge,balanced with the urban and multicultural experiences of Chicagoand an awareness of social responsibility, is what makes DePaul unique. • DePaul’s ranked programs and faculty experts contribute to its tradition of respected academics • DePaul prepares its graduates through a current curriculum that incorporates real-world knowledge and experiences of Chicago and beyond, faculty focused on teaching, and individualized attention • Academics are balanced with an exposure to and an understanding of the global community through DePaul’s unique combination of its urban environment (Chicago), diverse student body, and global issues infused in the curriculum • DePaul builds integrity among students, alumni and employees by fostering a sense of one’s social responsibility as a member of the global community through its support for service and foundation of Catholic values 29
    30. 30. DePaul Brand Identity EXTENDED IDENTITY Connected Catholic Real-World Knowledge Respected Urban educated. Multicultural Academics World ready. Experiences World-Class Respectful / City Caring Social Responsibility Student Current Focused 30
    31. 31. Implementation• Approved by senior leadership 12/10• Brand presentation kicked off the initial 2018 strategic planning meeting summit• Brand presentations made to key college and divisional staff and all front line staff (Admissions, Career Center, Financial Aid, Student Records)• Re-launched brand resource site• New advertising campaign launched 9/11 •
    32. 32. Print ad 32
    33. 33. Print ad 33
    34. 34. Outdoor – bus shelter ad 34
    35. 35. APPENDIX 35
    36. 36. Methodology and Quantitative Research Plan A total of 11 different respondent groups were surveyed which represent DePaul’s main audiences and align with previous qualitative research inputsMethodology 15 minute, online survey to key DePaul audiences; Administered by DePaul’s EMR via Human Capital Corporation Gift certificate and I - pad drawing incentives; Survey in field from June 21st – August 7thRespondent Strategic Survey Group Survey N Response Completed Strategic Sample Source Weighting Targets Rate WeightingUnder- 30% Prospect freshman 100 20, 379 0.7% 138 32% EMAS: Fall 2010graduate Prospect transfers 100 6,181 2.0% 126 8% EMAS: Fall 2010 Current students 100 2957 4.8% 141 50% PeopleSoft (fresh – senior) Parents variable 2957 5.1% 151 10% PeopleSoft (from the Quad)Graduate / 30% Prospects 100 7,196 1.4% 102 30% EMAS / Law School DbaseAdult Current students 100 1,620 6.7% 108 60% PeopleSoft (incl. Law) OCPE (Applicants 100 972 7.7% 75 10% OCPE prospect & enrolled and Enrolled) student dbaseAdvancement 30% Alumni 100 3,953 5.6% 223 70% Advance (grads post 1970) Employers variable 400 12.0% 48 20% Marketing Strategy source Community 100 19,995 1.1% 214 10% eRewards (5 mi radius of LP/Loop)Faculty / 10% Full time faculty & 100 3.696 5.4% 198 100% PeopleSoftStaff staff, part-time facultyTotal 100% 900 70,306 2.2% 1517* 100%Completes:*Total Completes = 1809 including partially completed surveys Quantitative Analysis Summary 36
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