What is an Identity Audit?
President Kim Schatzel has made the retelling of a contemporary Towson University
story one of her top initiatives and a cornerstone of her “TU Matters to Maryland”
To help accomplish this, the university is completing an identity audit process, which
uses extensive research and brand development strategy to define what makes TU distinct.
Ultimately, this research-based, multi-phase, institution-wide process will help guide
all creative expression and storytelling across divisions and colleges in a way that
authentically and consistently resonates with prospective students, parents, current
students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and influencers.
Who is Leading this Work?
In fall 2016, the University Marketing and Communications team began leading Towson
University through an identity or brand audit process to achieve greater clarity and
effectively incorporate the identity audit findings into a comprehensive, integrated,
Likewise, the TU Brand Team is a cross-divisional group of faculty, staff and students
that works directly with our creative partner throughout the brand strategy, creative
and implementation phases. These individuals or their departments hold varying levels
of responsibilities for key stakeholder engagement.
TU Brand Team
||University Marketing & Communications
||University Enrollment Marketing
||University Communications & Media Relations
|| Creative Services
||Center for Student Diversity, African-American Student Development
||Innovation & Applied Research, Office of Partnerships & Outreach
||Administration & Finance
||Auxiliary Services, Auxiliary Marketing & Communications
||Office of the President
||College of Education
||College of Fine Arts & Communication
||College of Business & Economics
||Department of English, College of Liberal Arts
||College of Education
About Our Partners
Towson University is working with nationally recognized creative partners to conduct
extensive stakeholder research, to develop a brand platform and strategy, and to revisit
and review the institution’s visual identity.
The research phase of the identity audit was completed in January 2017 by Ologie, an award-winning brand agency in the higher education industry. Lipman Hearne, a nationally-acclaimed brand agency from Chicago, Ill., will lead the institution
through the remaining phases of the process.
Identity Audit Timeline
The timeline includes the following five phases:
||Fall 2016 - Spring 2017
|2. Brand Platform & Strategy Development
||Summer - Fall 2017
|3. Creative Expression & Visual Identity
||Fall 2017 - Winter 2018
|4. Implementation & Campus Workshops
|5. Audience Segmentation & Campaign Launch
||Summer 2018 - Fall 2018
Phase 1: Identity Audit Research
- Establish a benchmark for current perceptions of the Towson University brand, as compared
to its competitive set (including direct competitor, peer and aspirant institutions).
- Provide an informed approach to strategic brand development and integrated marketing
and communications across the institution.
- Foster consensus among internal and external constituencies.
- The research revealed internal and external optimism as well as high levels of public
- Diversity is a decision driver for TU’s prospective students and according to our
prospective students, TU delivers on this need.
- There is great consensus around associations with qualities that describe TU like
“value, warmth, inclusivity, and growing in the right direction.”
- Right now, Towson University is not considered very unique or distinctive. In fact,
this is one of the biggest challenges of the brand. TU is considered by the general
population to be more average and unknown.
Research Takeaways and action items
- Identify TU’s distinctive qualities
- Embrace and recognize our work (internally)
- Empower the campus to be ambassadors in consistently conveying the Towson University
- Creatively express the contemporary TU experience
Read the Identity Audit Research Executive Summary (PDF)
View the Identity Audit Research Presentation (PDF)
Phase 2: Brand Platform & Strategy Development
Following a brand research review, competitor institution review, communications audit,
campus visit, and internal and external stakeholder focus groups, the Lipman Hearne
team presented an executive summary of their findings in July with key insights and
implications for TU’s brand strategy.
Key Takeaways from the discovery report
- Towson University Today—Towson University needs to talk about who TU is now, and where it’s going in the
future. The growth has been thoughtful and deliberate, but not at the expense of the
entrepreneurial spirit that thrives on campus. To do this effectively and compellingly
TU cannot be afraid/too humble to talk about the successes and points of pride so
there is a shared understanding, both internally and externally, of who Towson University is, who its faculty are, and what TU does for its students.
- Academics—The classwork is not “easy” and the students are not afraid of hard work. There is
an opportunity to talk about academics at Towson University. What does it mean to
be in classrooms with professors/experts? What does it mean to be in smaller classes?
There is an opportunity to talk about learning from those who are defining their fields,
yet give students their attention, and to talk about some of the research that is impacting students, or the world.
- Community—The supportive nature of Towson University should be communicated, but it will be
important to showcase the aspects of the environment that allow for open dialogue
(e.g., Freedom Square) and create a safe space where students can be pushed beyond their comfort zones. If not managed carefully, a “supportive
community” message could convey a lack of rigor, or a university for struggling students.
- Size vs. Impact—Towson University needs to move beyond talking about growth and assuming that the
audience understands why that is important and start to unpack for audiences what the impacts of the growth/size are—both what the students have access and exposure to, and what the large number
of graduates do in Maryland and the world.
- TU Personality—The Towson University person is humble, hungry, nimble, not afraid of hard work, willing to give back, and ready to
learn and take on the world, and so is Towson University. This should inform the personality, but also needs
to inform the key messages.
View the Discovery Report Presentation (PDF)
Brand platform and key messages
- The Brand Platform is an internal, strategic framework on which we build messages
and creative development. It serves as a snapshot of who we are, why we matter and
why audiences should affiliate with us.
- Key Messages break down TU’s offer into a core idea and four broad, easy-to-grasp
areas of distinction that are meaningful to audiences. They were created with help
from the TU Brand Team, then tested with internal focus groups of faculty, staff,
current students and prospective students.
View the Draft Brand Platform and Key Messages (PDF)