UNCG Community of Content Creators

Developing our brand.

Posted on Friday, February 28th, 2014 by Kevin Shoffner under DSBA, Integrated Marketing and Strategic Communication, Marketing.

I want to start off this post by saying how much I personally love the “Do Something Bigger Altogether” campaign. Maybe it is my innate desire to have clearly articulated guidelines for implementation that resonates well with me. In my role as the Assistant Director for Intramural & Club Sports, I spend a good portion of my day teaching others how to enforce and follow rules. It could be the creative use of photography. Photography is a personal hobby of mine. After thinking about it a bit more, it is just the simplicity and complexity of the branding that has sparked a creative passion inside of me.

I have worked in the Department of Campus Recreation for five years. During this time, I have been disappointed with the lack of a true brand identity for our department. It is evident when speaking with students who are unfamiliar with the programs and services we offer. It is frustrating when speaking with fellow faculty and staff who think we are just part of Intercollegiate Athletics. Our department does not have dedicated marketing staff so our efforts have always been a hodgepodge of efforts. It should not be surprising that the UNCG community does not really know who we are. Fortunately for us, the IMSC’s DSBA campaign came along.

For the past several years, Campus Rec has put together a single, comprehensive piece of print material (a calendar or brochure) to highlight our programs and services. It takes time to put the document together and planning for the upcoming year traditionally starts halfway through the spring semester. Our department was gearing up to plan for the 2012-13 calendar right around the time the DSBA campaign was introduced to campus. At first, I did not understand what the DSBA campaign entailed. The presentation was engaging and it started me thinking of ways Campus Rec could get on board. The department calendar ended up becoming our starting point.

During a staff meeting, we were asked to come up with ideas on how to incorporate everything our department does into a single sentence. Sounds simple enough right? Considering our department is comprised of six distinct program areas that focus on various way of improving student life and healthy lifestyles, we should knock this out in just a few minutes. During my brainstorming for this, I kept stalling out. Finally, I figured it would just be easier to make a mock-up of a calendar cover. Utilizing the Brand Guide web site, I started to piece together something I could share with the rest of the staff. First, I searched for a photo with a unique lighting element that would look good as a black and white image. Once I had that, I added the DSBA pennant. Next, I put the title and year text to the document. This was going quickly and I was pleased. Finally it was time to come up with the “headline statement” that represented our department.

Not fully understanding the DSBA campaign, I did not realize that this sentence would become our “Why” statement. The sample pieces from the Brand Guide web site helped me better understand what the headline statements should be. With a little more direction and realizing that a calendar was something people used to look for things, why not start off our headline with “I found a place.” This statement worked well because right off the bat, it creates a personal connection with the reader. Now all I was left with was developing short phrases that clearly articulated how individuals can connect with the various programs. (Outdoor Adventures = Explore Farther, Team QUEST = Reflect Deeper, Fitness = Grow Stronger, Intramural Sports = Play Harder, Club Sports = Accomplish More, Informal Recreation = Enjoy Life). There it was, our why statement. “I found a place where I can reflect deeper, play harder, grow stronger, explore farther, accomplish more & enjoy life.”

For the most part this is how the headline read on my first draft. The language was slightly different, but the staff really liked how the headline read and decided that this would be the calendar cover. Success! A day or two later, Mike, our Outdoor Adventures Program Director, sent me a picture he thought would work a bit better for the calendar, and he was right. Calendar-Cover-12-13Ok, so what is next? Little did I realize, that we had stumbled onto something with a lot of potential. To ensure that I had followed the Brand Guide correctly, I shared the calendar cover design with the University Relations staff through the brandaid@uncg.edu email account. The response was encouraging and it helped spark some additional ideas. Our department decided to explore additional ways to get the calendar cover in front of the campus. One not so subtle way was to put a 36-foot-long banner on the outside of the Student Recreation Center. (See image of the banner below). The banner is still displayed today. We also put the “I found a place” statement of plastic giveaway cups and included some of the elements of the headline on various staff and participant shirts. These items accounted for the majority of our branding efforts for the first few months of the 2012-13 school year.

Patron Shirt 12-13
Facility Banner
Giveaway Item
IM Champ Shirt 12-13

During the spring 2013 semester, I started to get nervous that our message was becoming stale. I was worried we would need to develop additional “Why” statements. Our current statement worked so well, that I did not want a new one that was lackluster. After considering the options, it actually made sense to deconstruct the full headline and use the segmented statements to promote the individual programs. (See examples of DSBA posters below) The ability to highlight smaller segments of our programs and services also significantly expanded the amount of materials we could develop to further promote “I found a place.”

Intramural Sports
The Edge – OA
Trips – OA

Moving into 2013-14, I was excited to refresh the “I found a place” statement. We updated our calendar cover with a striking photo of a female participant exercising. The cover photo choice was actually a bit challenging because we had another photo of a climbing wall member that really fit the headline well. The patron t-shirt for this year does an excellent job of promoting all program areas as well as the headline. Around the office, we were very excited with the shirt, but it was not until our student staff started asking when they could purchase the shirt, that we knew how strong of a design we had. For the foreseeable future, we can continue to produce t-shirts and calendars to promote our headline and our department, but I did not feel that was enough.

Patron Shirt 13-14
Calendar Cover 13-14

Who doesn’t love watching TED Talks? These brief yet inspiring videos can serve as great motivational tools. The presenters always find a way to take a complex concept and make it sound simple. Why do I bring up TED Talks? Have you ever heard of Simon Sinek? Simon speaks about leadership and embraces a “Lead with why” model for motivating individuals. If you have not seen his presentation, I highly recommend you view it. To simply explain, Simon suggests that if you first explain why you do what you do, you are more likely to make a connection with the audience. After watching his presentation more times than I care to admit, it dawned on me that our department needed our own lead with why presentation. This presentation could become our elevator speech, our stump speech, our statement of why we exist. I wish I could say that our presentation was finished and polished and ready for the next TEDx event in Greensboro, but we are not quite there yet.

So there you have it. What started off with the need to design a calendar cover has turned into the driving force for creating a brand identity for our department. This whole process has evolved organically over the past several years. We would not be on the path we are on without the help of the staff from University Relations (you all know who you are). For those of you who have stuck it out and read up to this point, what is the take away? Well I hope you can see that you do not necessarily need to have a grand marketing plan or dedicated marketing staff to develop a brand identity for your office, department or program. Utilize the tools provided on the brandguide.uncg.edu web site and just start with one marketing piece. For our marketing, I am not sure what new avenues we will use to promote our brand or when we may look to adjust the messaging, but I appreciate knowing that the new opportunities are out there.

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