Dr. Edward H. Hammond, president of Fort Hays State University, welcomed faculty to the 2009-2010 school year this morning at the annual Fall Convocation with a theme of "Forward thinking. World ready."
Since arriving at the helm of FHSU in 1987, he has announced a theme for each academic year, but this year's theme has special significance because it is also the tagline for the university's new brand platform.
This will be the third tagline used during President Hammond's tenure -- following "Affordable Success," which in turn followed "High Tech, High Touch" -- and he emphasized that the new brand platform continues a process of evolution. "We are not rejecting those earlier themes," he said, "but building on them. We still provide the best of modern technology with close personal attention. We still are the most affordable university in the region and provide an education that makes our students successful. Our new brand tagline demonstrates that through those earlier efforts, we are positioned to look toward the future and prepare our graduates to compete in a rapidly changing world."
The process of developing a new brand began in 2007 when university officials discussed the need to redesign the Web site -- www.fhsu.edu -- to make it more up to date and fresher, and to make use of new Web technologies that allow greater social interaction. The university's Integrated Marketing Committee recommended that the brand should be reviewed and updated before beginning renovation of the Web site. President Hammond approved. The university issued a nationwide request for proposals and hired the Educational Marketing Group Inc., Denver, to assist in the process.
EMG prepared a Project Work Plan in May 2008 that included four components: 1. A brand audit and Web site/operations analysis; 2. brand platform development with an integrated marketing plan; 3. creative development and testing; and 4. Brand implementation and Web site design/programming.
An extensive research process began, which included exhaustive surveys and interviews. "The EMG consultants conducted an exhaustive effort to learn about FHSU, in numbers, in facts and in impressions," said Kent Steward, FHSU's director of the Office of University Relations and also the brand manager. "This was critical because a brand, in essence, is not something that can be forced. It has to be a true representation of what the university really is and what it is perceived to be."
With the research completed, EMG issued a report and next began to develop the brand platform and marketing plan. Working with President Hammond and other university leaders, the consultants finalized the tagline -- Forward thinking. World ready. -- and a positioning statement:
Fort Hays State University is the region’s leading forward-thinking, entrepreneurial university that values social, civic and professional engagement. We attract goal-oriented students with a strong work ethic who want to live and learn in a caring community.
From the beginning of their college experience, our students are actively engaged in an exceptional depth of core learning opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom. We provide extraordinary one-to-one attention and support. Our faculty are outstanding teachers who motivate students to think globally, discover their potential and develop their unique talents. We expect our faculty, staff, students and alumni to be involved and engaged in their professions and communities.
Our graduates gain confidence, a deep appreciation of knowledge, and the professional skills that give them an advantage in their careers, now and for a lifetime.
Also critical was the development of brand messages. "We identified many truths about FHSU, but the strategic part was to hone in on which of these many possible messages we should emphasize to accomplish our goals, such as enrollment growth and enhancement of the learning experience," Steward said. "We selected five key messages, which we call the brand drivers, by testing the various possibilities in focus groups and interviews. Over the past several month, we have conducted numerous education sessions to acquaint faculty and staff with the new brand platform and to show how they can participate by tailoring their publicity and recruitment efforts by emphasizing the brand drivers."
The brand drivers:
· Learning opportunities with exceptional depth, inside and outside the classroom, from the beginning of the college experience;
· Outstanding faculty and staff who deliver exceptional attention and support;
· An expectation of social, civic and professional engagement;
· Partnerships and learning experiences that bring together cultures, perspectives and thinking from around the world; and
· Innovation that drives solutions.
Next came development of the creative elements, which are the visuals and symbols that help to convey the sense and feel of the brand. The creatives, which include a new logo in which the old torch is replaced by the mascot, Victor E. Tiger, also went through a testing process.
Finally, the demanding process of developing a new Web site and converting something like 70,000 pages has begun. That conversion is in the final stages, and the new Web site will be launched soon.
But with the president's announcement at the Fall Convocation, the new brand is official. The public will be seeing more and more of the new images and hearing more and more of the new messages in the days and months ahead.