Logo soup of U of Montana wants one voice: Issues RFP

Steve’s breakdown: The story says they issued an RFP that “asks the consultant come up with brand statements, concepts, messaging and to create a visual identity for stationery, brochures, graphics and voice-messaging.” So it’s bad english. They have a budget. The video gives you a good feel of the place.

MISSUOLA, MT: The University of Montana is like logo soup.

Over time, each department has developed its own brand, logo and tagline when marketing to wider audiences.

The School of Business Administration’s logo is a side profile of Mount Sentinel with the “M” and the tagline: “The thinking is clearer up here.”

The College of Forestry and Conservation’s logo is green with birds that make up the silhouette of a tree.

The Law School and the College of Arts and Sciences both have logos that depict jagged peaks, but one includes a Griz paw and the other does not. In some cases, even the font of UM’s name varies on academic department websites.

It’s time UM presents a clear, consistent and concise message, said President Royce Engstrom, who first announced the university’s intentions of rebranding itself earlier this year during his State of the University address. On Tuesday, Beth Hammock, vice president for strategic communications and marketing for the UM Foundation and who is leading the university’s overall rebranding efforts, addressed the University Council about the project.

The idea is that when the rebranding effort concludes at the end of June 2012, UM will have a logo, tagline and mission that represents all of its diverse campus. Many people across Montana and nationwide undoubtedly equate UM with its athletic teams. While that is an important part of the campus, there are other programs that deserve recognition as well, Engstrom said.

“This has to be a multi-way conversation,” Engstrom stressed more than once. “It has to be a conversation about the strengths brought to the table by the individual units.”

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Hammock pointed to other universities that have undertaken similar rebranding efforts. The University of Texas in Austin’s tagline is, “What starts here changes the world.” Oregon State University emphasizes healthy living.

“It’s not just about the logo.” Hammock said, “It’s about who we say we are.”

A national search is under way for a marketing firm to help with the rebranding efforts, and a 20-person university task force has been formed to work on the project.

The request for proposal submitted by UM asks the consultant come up with brand statements, concepts, messaging and to create a visual identity for stationery, brochures, graphics and voice-messaging.

UM conducted a communications audit in 2010. The consultants found that UM conveys a lot of different messages to the public, Hammock said. The audit also found that UM has strong communication vehicles, such as award-winning videos and The Montanan, the alumni magazine.

The UM Foundation was one of the driving forces behind the university’s communication audit because more integrated communications could help improve fundraising, Hammock said.

Between 14 percent and 20 percent of alumni at most leading public universities donate to their alma maters, but UM draws support only from 9.1 percent.

But the rebranding strategy goes beyond the scope of fundraising, Engstrom said. It’s about recruiting faculty, students and appealing to lawmakers.

UM has budgeted up to $200,000 for the project this year.

“This is an investment in future success and we think it’s going to be worth it,” Hammock said.

In addition, UM will hire a chief marketing officer to implement the new strategy. It’s possible the new position will take the place of the director of university relations, which has been vacant for several years, but Engstrom said that’s hard to know at this point. Part of the job description and skills necessary to fill that chief marketing job will become clearer as the rebranding process takes shape.

“It’s really about the reputation of the university,” Engstrom said. “It’s about telling our story as proactively as we can.”

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