What is the essence of Wright State University? What does it stand for? How is it perceived and where is it going? These are the questions that have driven a comprehensive branding initiative.
“For more than two years, we have been on a journey to define the Wright State identity and refresh our overall messaging,” said Robert J. Sweeney, executive vice president for planning. “It has been an amazing journey, one that afforded us an incredible opportunity to examine who we are and who we want to be.”
“The intersection of our capabilities and aspirations and what our students, alumni, donors, employers and others need and expect from us is where the brand emerges,” explained Steve Gabbard, associate brand manager and chair of the Branding Initiative Core Committee. “The branding initiative is a way to determine what we stand for and build consistency around a clear vision.
“This consistency applied over the long term will positively influence what our constituents say about us,” he continued. “It is critically important for us to manage this narrative when prospective students and faculty, donors and employers are listening.”
Historically, Wright State has had numerous branding messages used by various parties around campus. By coordinating these messages via a core brand position, the university can improve their effectiveness and increase their impact on the public. Solidifying the brand helps people speak with one voice to better deliver on the university’s mission and vision in order to become more relevant. It is vastly more than a logo or school colors.
“For the first time, Wright State has focused on the empirical truth of who we are, who we serve, how and where we deliver on a common mission, and on what we should be doing to be the best university for the future,” explained Jim Munch, associate dean of the Raj Soin College of Business and a member of the Branding Initiative Core Committee.
The genesis for the branding initiative goes back as far as President David R. Hopkins’ inauguration speech in October 2007.
“As we take stock today, it is important to understand all of what has made this possible,” he said. “Certainly, it is our people. It is always about people. So, who are we? What are we passionate about? What is the heart, soul and spirit of this great university and its people?”
Hopkins’ comments on that momentous day foreshadowed a quest to discover what makes Wright State so special. “So, what has driven us and will drive us over the next decade?” Hopkins asked.
To answer those questions, Hopkins along with Larry Klaben, then chair of the Wright State Board of Trustees, initiated a branding study in 2013. As president and CEO of Morris Furniture Company, Inc., Klaben understood the value of branding and making sure the world knows who you are.
“Together, we are creating a brand that truly reflects how Wright State is a university for the 21st century; for the world,” said Sweeney.
A guiding principle throughout the initiative has been inclusiveness. All stakeholder groups, inside and outside the university, would need to have a say. A campus-wide coordinating committee ensured that thousands of people have been involved.
“All of the Wright State community, and the faculty in particular, know just how great we are and can become at fulfilling our mission,” Gabbard said. “But the community of future students and broader constituents are unaware of much of this, as they only see a part of what we are, or hear ‘hallway snippets’ from others.”
The branding effort will help ensure that the university’s uniqueness, capabilities and contributions to the larger community are known and understood.
“What we’re going to do is increase Wright State’s sense of impact and relevance,” Gabbard said. “This is a starting point for moving toward and immersing ourselves in the new reality of 21st century education.”
Look for details about the research in a future story.