Rebranding Waterloo… just a little bit

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UW is initiating a brand refinement project, which aims to create a framework of tools, guidelines, and visuals to more effectively communicate Waterloo&rsquo;s image. The project also supports UW&rsquo;s strategic goal to be recognized as one of the top innovation universities in the world.&nbsp;</p>

The project consists of three phases. Phase one is the Brand Strategy Platform (August to December 2015). This is a brainstorming stage, where ideas will be collected from stakeholders and corresponding research will be conducted. Sandra Banks, vice president of university relations, said that during this phase, “We want to know how people view the university, our reputation, and where do we want to take it from here in terms of the best communication ideas.” 

The project will feature consultation and engagement with the campus community including senior leadership, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and partners. The project leading team has already talked to the Federation of Students, the Graduate Student Association, and the Faculty Association. In addition, Banks said, “We have already indicated that we will be going out to students generally in mid-November … to share views and impressions of what the university means to them.” The communication with all stakeholders will also be continued in phases two and three.

Phase two is the communications campaign “Big Idea” (January to June 2016). During this phase, the brand platform will be transformed to a creative campaign to support cross-campus communications objectives and requirements. 

Phase three is the communications campaign and brand guidelines (July to September 2016); an integrated communications campaign including advertising, websites, social media, events, and collateral applications. 

The brand refinement project was initiated now because the university aims to build on its 2014 brand and reputation results. Furthermore, Banks explained that a lot more post-secondary institutions are trying to attract attention, not just of future students, but also partners and donors. The project also aims to continue to leverage the university’s strengths, including co-op, entrepreneurship, and transformational research.

The university’s logo is not the focus of this project, as Banks explained. “We know there is very strong attachment and very high recognition of what we called the word mark, [the logo of the] University of Waterloo together with the shield.”

Not all past rebranding initiatives taken by the university have been well received. In order to better encompass the creative needs of students and stakeholder, Banks plans to engage with the UW population at all three phases of the project. 

“We’ve been very focused and very deliberate about reaching out to all stakeholders on campus. In the first phase, we’ve been really asking questions and researching what people think and how they want to be involved. We’ve already talked to Feds and the GSA, faculty and staff associations, and we’ll be going back to those groups as we continue on through phase two and three.” Banks said that this project will also involve reaching out to average UW students not associated with the above mentioned groups.  

At the current stage, the next steps of the project are to engage students, faculty, staff, alumni, and partners through on-campus and online initiatives. The aim is to develop a multi-year communications approach that uses visual and written guidelines and tools.