Working with in-house marketing teams.
Like other large and complex institutions, many colleges and universities employ an in-house marketing team to address the frequent and ongoing communications needs of the institution. We developed Brandcamp™ specifically to fill important gaps in this arrangement.
Brandcamp™ was created under our parent company, McKim. It is a one- or two-day branding intensive workshop designed to mentor and invigorate in-house marketing teams. With each engagement, a facilitator leads a series of workshop discussions and activities designed to help internal marketing teams discover or rediscover the brand they manage every day.
Brandcamp™ was how we met Lethbridge College. They already had an internal team modelled after an advertising agency, with graphic and digital designers, copywriters, and client service reps who managed various Faculty and administrative portfolios within the college. Lethbridge College engaged us to kickstart an internal rebranding initiative – an endeavour their team was excited to take on, but hadn’t led before.
What they told us: Point us in the right direction.
Over the course of two days, we led an immersive session that challenged the Lethbridge College team to think critically about their positioning, their competitors, their students, and their unique role.
Prior to the session, participants were asked to research competing institutions, and to think critically about their marketing claims. We explored personality and tone through the use of archetypes. We leveraged research and insight to develop audience personas that helped humanize target audiences. And we thought about the messages and media that best addressed their needs.
Finally, we brought these seemingly disparate aspects together using a series of tools. Working in teams, colleagues explored functional and emotional benefits, core offerings, brand characteristics and audience insights – all in an effort to distil a brand essence and potential positioning, and compare each teams’ work to see where it aligned, and where it deviated.
What we saw: Preparation runs through it all.
Our deliverable was to develop a draft narrative for Lethbridge College based on its team’s work. The narrative would be used as a jumping off point for the college to refine (or rewrite) as appropriate as the team worked post-session to explore and identify the college’s new brand.
While reviewing the participants’ work, we saw that the notion of preparation and responsiveness was a recurring trend. From law enforcement to auto technicians to culinary arts, the college’s role is to prepare students to enter the region’s workforce – and adapt the teaching and learnings as the needs of the region change.
Making a common claim ownable.
But ‘preparation’ is a common refrain for similar colleges. To stand apart, we needed to express the idea uniquely. So, we drew inspiration from excerpts from the workshop exercises:
- Participants described an audience persona as driving a used pickup truck and drinking black coffee. This led us to use plain-spoken language in our narrative.
- A competitive analysis pointed to a university that leveraged the sunshine and bright prairie skies in their brand expression. We contrasted this with embracing the earth, and encouraged Lethbridge College to be ‘grounded’ in its communications.
- One of the unique natural attributes of the region is its coulees – the deep ravines etched across the landscape. We leveraged that imagery into messaging that referenced ‘digging deep’ and ‘making an impression.’
- The narrative developed by ED capped off with a simple, plain spoken call to action for Lethbridge College community: Be Ready.
We presented a recap of the session, and our recommended narrative, to session participants and select college leadership via videoconference. The narrative was unanimously embraced and presented to the Office of the President within days. Today, it’s a cornerstone of the college’s award-winning brand expression.
In the months that followed Brandcamp™, we worked collaboratively with the Lethbridge College team to build off of this foundational work. From this two-day workshop, we helped this group build and execute a brand expression and marketing campaign that would help unify the campus community, set it apart in its competitive set, and earn it multiple awards at CASE District VIII. Read more about our work with Lethbridge College, here.
This foundational exercise, and the resulting narrative, has helped Lethbridge College unify communications across platforms. In addition to the marketing campaign, the Lethbridge College fundraising campaign – Ready to Rise – is clearly tethered to the institutional brand, resulting in a cohesive message across multiple institutional channels.
The value of a brand narrative as a marketing building block has come into full effect during the COVID-19 pandemic, where Lethbridge College’s crisis messaging to students has helped anchor their communications. The ‘Be Ready’ messaging that came about during Brandcamp™ sent a signal of confidence to students that shows that even during challenging circumstances, the college welcomes their questions and anticipates their needs.