Feds had been hinting at a major change for the past couple of months. The organization debuted their new name and logo on July 30: the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA). The student association had already been communicating with first years under the actual name WUSA and has been workshopping the change since March, under the previous Feds government.
Michael Beauchemin, WUSA (formerly Feds) President, justified the change, saying that students need to be able to understand what a student association is, and what they offer to students.
“A big part of why we need to do the rebrand in the first place is because all our brands are so disparate, so people don’t know that Wasabi is a Feds’ brand, … people don’t necessarily know that [International] News is Feds,” Beauchemin said.
“It’s easier for people to even begin to understand what the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association is about than what the Federation of Students is. Many students on campus don’t know they are part of the student union or don’t know more that the name.”
For Feds, this brand change is a long time coming.
“The Feds brand is not something that has been overly successful. I think part of it is just the fact that Feds is such an old brand. We’ve had this [logo] for 20 years just about. And [Feds] has gone through some iterations before and we’ve even played around a lot with the capitalization in the past ten years. But now are marketing department has a much better understanding of how to reach students because we have some more successful rebrands, like Welcome Week” said Beauchemin.
“I don’t know how many unique students have been surveyed but it’s on the order of thousands and we’re doing a lot consultation though the Students’ Council … and we’ll continue to do check-ins to ask ‘Do you know about the student union?’ [and] ‘Do you know that you’re a member?’ and we can compare our results from the past” he said.
WUSA’s logo is a series of thick, black letters overlaying each other. The S in the logo is visually dissimilar and looks like a black pill split diagonally.
“[The S in the WUSA logo] will be responsive so we can put in different colours and pictures.” said Beauchemin.
Some students were ambivalent to the change.
“(The logo) feels like its clean but its lacking something. The current Feds logo has a lot more impact. It’s cool that they’re rebranding though, I like the name,” Will Huang, a Computer Engineering student, said.
Andrew, a UW alumni, agreed. “It could look a bit more professional. If they could’ve found a student with a bit more expertise it would have fit better. It doesn’t really match; Feds is a representation of the students. (Adding) colour would be nice” he said.
Other students had stronger opinions.
“It’s better than Feds because Federation of Students is just too political for me. WUSA just sounds too long, under three [letters] have been better. And it should look a bit more professional, especially for a school that runs on GBDA, Engineering, and a whole bunch of other programs, you’d think they’d make a [student] competition. Literally, it looks like they got it off WordArt” said Josh, an incoming UW Arts student.
Beauchemin acknowledged that brand recognition would be an uphill battle.
“Many students on campus don’t know they are part of the student union or don’t know more that the name…. We came in with the idea of changing the way we do things and the rebrand is a good opportunity for that. We’re looking at how we can improve our core offerings to students and tie it back together so that … students come to us for help. We’re working on our value proposition and other things to tie into our rebrand so that we’re not just giving the same old [Feds].”
Beauchemin has no doubt that students will be able to track the status of Feds to WUSA saying “Those who know Feds will see the WUSA and make the connection, UW students are the smartest there are.” Nevertheless, the Feds President said ”We’ll need to be doing a bit of co-branding for the first year or more, with ‘Feds is now WUSA,’ ‘WUSA, formerly known as Feds,’ that kind of stuff,”
Feds’ legal name will not change to WUSA. “[Fed’s name in] legal contracts [and] agreements with the university, we’re not changing any of that” said Beauchemin.
“One, it is a very long and extensive process and two, it’s something we didn’t feel comfortable doing because … [we]’ll need a rebrand. Third, we didn’t want to open up our agreements with the university to modification [because] we have very favourable conditions” he said.
Students will be paying a WUSA fee instead of a Feds fee. That’s because the university pre-empted the brand change. Beauchemin admitted Feds would have preferred to retain the name Feds this September.
“That’s what most people will know. We don’t have time to reach second, third, and fourth years to let them know about the brand name,” Beauchemin said.
“The university took the liberty of pre-empting the decision and putting WUSA in front of the fees instead of Feds. So, we’re running into the problem we wanted to avoid … but so far people have been quick on the uptake.”
The Federation of Students was created in 1967, when the word federation possessed a special meaning, as it was inaugurated 100 years after Canada’s Confederation. Beauchemin emphasized that, above all, the rebrand is meant to reconnect with students.
“[In focus groups] we learned that people had used Feds services in the past but didn’t know they were Feds-run. When asked about [Feds] they used words like large and obscure. I want students to get out of this rebrand that ‘we have your back’ … and that they can engage with us. People should know that they can reach out to their counselors if they have concerns, they can reach out to societies and that comes back to us and we hear them” he said.