Brand Identity Process

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” presidential priority.

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, marketing campaign.

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

View the List of Brand Team Members

Sean Welsh, University Marketing & Communications
Timm Baldwin, Marketing & Brand Strategy
Rick Pallansch, Creative Services
Louise Miller, Promotions & Events
David Fedorchak, University Admissions
Bobbie Laur, Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research, Office of Partnerships and Outreach
Ralph Valle, Auxiliary Services, Auxiliary Marketing & Communications
Geannine Callaghan, Development
Lori Armstrong, Alumni Relations
Kathleen Maloney, Office of the President
Laila Richman, College of Education
William Huff, Athletics
Susan Picinich, College of Fine Arts & Communication
Kristin Laporte, WTMD
Jan Baum, College of Business & Economics
Jennifer Ballengee, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts
Joyce Garczynski, Cook Library
Laurie Mullen, College of Education
Susan Miltenberger, Office of Technology Services
Jennifer Stano, Office of Human Resources
Students, Student Government Association

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., played a crucial role in identifying and defining our brand platform and key messages. Moving forward, we’re pleased to be working with Mission Media, our Agency of Record, as we further develop TU’s voice and visual identity, and begin the implementation of our new branding. 

Identity Audit Timeline

The timeline includes five phases:

PHASES 1-5 TIMELINE
1. Research   Fall 2016 - Spring 2017
2. Brand Platform & Strategy Development Summer 2017 - Spring 2018
3. Creative Expression & Visual Identity Summer 2018 - Fall 2018
4. Implementation & Campus Workshops Winter 2018 - Spring 2019
5. Audience Segmentation & Campaign Launch Summer 2019 - Fall 2019

Phase 1: Identity Audit Research 

Objectives

  1. Establish a benchmark for current perceptions of the Towson University brand, as compared to its competitive set (including direct competitor, peer and aspirant institutions).
  2. Provide an informed approach to strategic brand development and integrated marketing and communications across the institution.
  3. Foster consensus among internal and external constituencies.

Research Findings

  • The research revealed internal and external optimism as well as high levels of public awareness.
  • 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 experience
  • 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 and Strategy Development

Discovery report

  • Following a brand research review, competitor institution review, communications audit, campus visit, and internal and external stakeholder focus groups, an executive summary of findings was created with key insights and implications for TU’s brand strategy.

View the Discovery Report Presentation (PDF)

Brand platform and key messages

  • Brand Platform — an internal, strategic framework on which to 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  a set of statements defining TU’s unique offer centered around a core idea and four broad, easy-to-grasp messages that equally support the core idea. 

A draft version of the brand platform and key messages was created by the TU Brand Team. Feedback was solicited from more than a dozen internal groups, boards and representative bodies.

The messages were also formally tested in focus groups of faculty, staff, current students, prospective students and prospective students’ parents. A final version of the brand platform and key messages was created based on the collective feedback received.

View the Final Brand Platform (PDF)
View the Final Key Messages (PDF)

View the Complete Revisions Based on Feedback (PDF)

Phase 3: Creative Expression and Visual Identity

A great brand should be seen:

  • During summer 2018, a variety of potential new brand marks were created, shared and tested with internal groups across Towson University’s campus, as well as prospective students and their families.
  • Based on the feedback received, a final logo direction and visual identity were selected in late summer of 2018.

We know campus is buzzing with excitement for the university’s new brand mark which will be shared first with the TU community before it’s implemented on campus and beyond. Look for President Schatzel to reveal the brand mark direction in October 2018. We can’t wait for you to see this important element of the university’s brand new visual identity.

A great brand should be heard:

  • Throughout summer 2018, the TU brand voice was fine-tuned, finalized and shared with the greater campus community. Our tone was defined and refined with input from various groups to best capture TU’s best traits, and how to convey them through the written word.

Our voice is who we are, the distinct tone and style that allows Towson University’s personality to shine in everything we do. It deepens our communication and helps reinforce what makes us TU.

Phase 4: Implementation and Campus Workshops

Brand Rollout

  • In October 2018, TU’s new brand mark was officially announced during President Schatzel’s address and unveiled to the campus.
  • Following the president’s announcement, the University Marketing and Communications team held TU’s first Brand Day in January 2019. This immersive day of workshops and presentations told the story of the brand launch, and offered advice to the campus community on using the new brand in their own materials.
  • Additional workshops are being conducted to continue educating faculty, staff and student groups on use of the brand mark, navigating and using the tools and resources provided on TU’s newly launched Brand Toolkit site, and through social media and other digital assets.

The new brand is a way for the entire community to be a part of TU’s story, where our voice and our personality is evident in everything we do. Through the end of summer 2019, our focus is on those most connected to TU—our students, faculty and staff. They’re the first to experience and adopt the new brand before expanding our branding updates to the larger external community.

Phase 5: Audience Segmentation and Campaign Launch

Houston, we have lift-off

  • In 2019 and leading up to 2020, TU launched our Brand Campaign, implementing the new visual identity through advertising on campus and beyond.
  • University Marketing and Communications continued to host Brand Workshops and implement transitions around campus from the old brand mark to the new one.

By the end of 2019, many of the brand marks around campus have already been changed to reflect our new branding. Our bold new TU can be found on flagpoles, buses, signage, marketing materials and more, and this transition will continue until the new brand identity is fully applied.

The Brand Campaign was launched with external paid media including print and digital ads, out-of-home advertising, and transit ads. It’s also been used in our marketing to prospective students. These efforts will continue into 2020 and beyond, continuing the momentum we’ve built as TU keeps moving forward.