A new brand strategy for Seattle University will be
introduced to the campus community later this quarter. Scott McClellan, vice
president for university communications, recently provided an overview of the
process by which the strategy is being developed, why this is important to the
university and more.
SU Commons Editor: Why is the university undertaking this brand
Scott McClellan: We are in a very competitive higher education
market and higher education is going through a period of disruptive change. It’s
important to make sure we’re telling our unique story with greater clarity and
impact. The brand initiative is an important step toward raising awareness
about Seattle University and elevating our academic profile—the profile of our
accomplished faculty and the transformational education students receive. It is
about how we position ourselves, moving forward—about how we differentiate
ourselves. The competition in higher education these days is intense and there
is a lot of white noise in the marketplace. Many universities are saying and
promising the same thing. What we need to do is differentiate ourselves. We
have a great story to tell and I want more people to hear our story. The
message needs to authentic to who we are, but to stand out and break through
all the clutter, it also needs to be clear and distinctive.
SU Commons Editor: How has the process played out thus far?
Scott McClellan: The first step in this process was to bring
together a group of individuals in the university community to oversee the
development of a comprehensive brand strategy. The Brand Leadership Group (BLG)
is a select group of key stakeholders, including experts in branding and
marketing. We have two faculty representatives who were selected from a list of
recommendations from our deans. It also includes our vice president for
Enrollment Management, the vice president for University Advancement, the
associate provost for Graduate Education and Research and the dean of
Admissions. The Brand Leadership Group has been meeting roughly every other
week since March. Our first priority was to identify a branding firm that, one,
had experience in higher education, and two, could conduct the necessary
research to support the direction we head with the brand concept and ensure we
are on target. There were three finalists and the Brand Leadership Group came
to a strong consensus around 160over90.
SU Commons Editor: What was it about 160over90 that appealed to
the Brand Leadership Group?
Scott McClellan: We felt that 160over90 will push us to be
more creative, maybe even more edgy than some others might have. We think
that’s what need if we’re going to differentiate ourselves and really stand out
in the marketplace. We need a bold approach and that is what we believe 160
will bring to the table.
SU Commons Editor: Where did the agency go from there?
Scott McClellan: 160over90 has five stages to their process.
The first was the discovery phase in which they did a review of all our marketing
assets and recent research we had already done. In May, they conducted a
two-day immersion on campus in which they met with a wide range of
stakeholders—from faculty to our Jesuit community to students at both the
undergraduate and graduate level to leaders in each of the four pillars of the
university community—Academic Affairs, Mission and Ministry, Student
Development and Athletics. They also interviewed alumni, trustees and parents. From
the immersion, 160over90 was able to get a good sense of who we are and how we
view ourselves. They also did a competitive peer assessment and conducted
external research targeted toward prospective undergraduate and graduate students.
SU Commons Editor: Can you share a little bit about what was revealed
as a result of this research?
Scott McClellan: What we learned, especially from the
external research, is there’s a significant gap between how we perceive
ourselves and how prospective students perceive us. That’s a gap we need to
close. The external research also verified the need to increase awareness about
Seattle University in general and our core attributes more specifically.
SU Commons Editor: Getting back to the process, what came
after the discovery phase that you just described?
Scott McClellan: The second phase was the development of a
strategy, in which they looked at the key messages and themes that the brand
concepts would be developed around. The agency is now in the middle of the
third phase which is developing the two brand concepts that they will present
to the brand leadership group in October. Then a decision will be made on which
direction to take. The fourth phase is the roll-out. It will include open forums
on campus so everybody—students, faculty and staff—will have an opportunity to
learn about the new brand concept. There will also be new brand guidelines and
brand camps so those who need them have the tools to ensure consistency of
look, feel and messaging. The fifth is the execution phase. The Brand
Leadership Group is in the process of prioritizing which executions will be
carried out in the near term and which will be carried out longer term. One of
the key executions being discussed within the university community is the need
for an ongoing visibility campaign to increase awareness about Seattle
University and help us break out of the pack so to speak.
SU Commons Editor: If we were to fast-forward a few years,
what would you like to see, broadly speaking, come out of the executions of the
Scott McClellan: The ultimate message we send has to be
clear, consistent and compelling. It takes time for the message to really sink
in—consistency is key. My top priority is to make sure we are no longer viewed
as “the best kept secret.” I think that’s a priority that many in our
university community share. That’s why the brand initiative is so important—we
must make sure that we are clearly communicating the overarching message and
engaging our audiences in new and innovative ways to break through all the
clutter of marketing they are exposed to on a daily basis.
SU Commons Editor: As you mentioned once the brand concept
is approved, there will be opportunities for the university community to learn
about what comes out of the process and what’s next, but is there anything you
can share at this point, even in general terms, on where this all might be
Scott McClellan: Let me mention a few things without
getting out in front of concepts that are still being developed.First, we have very solid data that is
driving the direction of the brand concepts. The data is the basis for the
concepts 160 is developing. We, the Brand Leadership Group, have signed off on
the creative approach they are taking. There are three core supporting themes
emerging that form a pyramid, if you will. The foundation, or bottom, of the
pyramid includes the forward-looking, innovative ecosystem of Seattle where we
are centrally located and our Jesuit educational experience, which is grounded
in 450 years of excellence and transformation. The top of the pyramid is the
impact we have. When you talk about our impact, it is about the impact our
students, alumni and faculty have locally and globally. There is a certain
expectation attached to a Seattle University education. It is an expectation
that you are committing yourself to something more, to something greater than
yourself—to serving others. We expect you to lead and serve, to be engaged. We
expect you to be an agent for change in your careers and in your communities. The
impact we have is sustainable; it’s not short term. Our impact makes a lasting
difference in communities, locally and globally.
SU Commons Editor: Anything else you’d like to share about
the brand initiative?
Scott McClellan: First, I’m pleased by the participation of a
broad and diverse segment of the university community. During the discovery
phase 160over90 was able to hear from all the various stakeholders. Second, members
of the Brand Leadership Group deserve the credit and I am grateful for their
work overseeing this effort. We have a very talented team, especially our
faculty experts, who have remained fully engaged throughout the process.
Finally, as Fr. Steve mentioned during the President’s Welcome, we are all
brand ambassadors. I look forward to working with everyone in our university
community to successfully implement our strategy.
SU Commons Editor: You just celebrated your one-year
anniversary at the university. What have been the highlights of your first year
Scott McClellan: There are a number of highlights. Let me
just mention one, and that isbeing
part of our wonderful community. I love being part of our Seattle University community.
We have a talented and accomplished group of faculty and staff who are fully
committed to the mission and fully committed to the students, alumni and
community we serve. I feel blessed to be a part of it.